Thursday, November 30, 2006

So Long, Farewell...

Since I have a strict "never blog drunk" policy, a few quick thoughts on Paul's tribute before I hit the hospitality suites:

1. Mark Tweksbury was an...interesting choice to be master of ceremonies. I kind of get the feeling he had a dozen bowls of Coco Puffs before taking the stage though.

2. Would have liked to see the Warren Kinsella video message...

3. There was a 5 minute stretch of Martin's speech which was pretty much word for word from his 2006 campaign stump speech.

4. Man, there were a lot of standing ovations to give.

5. Maybe it's just because he's been gone for so long but the videos made Paul seem like a pretty nice guy.

6. That said, he certainly accomplished more in Finance than as PM.

7. Glad to see Paul mention JC's name a few times.

Tomorrow, things get interesting...

Live from Montreal

A quick break from the organized spontaneity to recap last night's events.

First of all, let me say that Howard Dean rocked. He got a massive ovation when he talked about how the party should "never cede a single province, a single riding, a single vote", spoke a little French ("Fox news is going to love this" he quipped), and talked about giving power to the grass roots. Even delegates I know who didn't like the idea of having Howard Dean as the guest speaker were impressed.

What I probably could have done without was the three hour buildup to Dean's speech which featured every single Maritime musical performer in Canada. I also didn't really understand the contortionist doing more backflips on stage that Bob Rae on the constitution. Shawn Graham did a good job talking about the need for a positive message rather than constantly tearing down our opponents. I guess Tanya Cappo didn't get the memo since she proclaimed that it's only a matter of time until "voters have no choice but to return us to power". Glen Pearson was certainly positive...maybe a little too positive since he called the Liberals "the only indispensable political force in the country".

The evening was probably a little awkward for the Ignatieff delegates who had to sit through a dozen denunciations of the Iraq war from pretty much every speaker who got up on stage.

Other highlights from yesterday included one of Gerard's kids shouting at a group of us in the food court "those people are voting for my daddy". I also managed to score pictures with my two favourite federalists in the world - Andrew Coyne and Jean Lapierre.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Morning After

I was going to write a long (and, I'm sure, quite moving) post on how 95% of MPs just voted in something which 2/3 of Canadians oppose.

I was also going to mention how bizarre it was to watch both the National and CTV News last night and watch them spend minutes trying to dissect what the resolution which had just been passed actually meant. No one seems to know what we've just done.

But since I'm fairly busy with convention stuff, I'll just direct you all to Andrew Coyne's site since he, as usual, sums things up quite nicely.


I wouldn't expect very eloquent posts over the next few days - instead, a few random quick hits now that I've arrived in La Nation.

1. I was watching the extras from my Trudeau DVD on the way in here and they had a documentary on the 1968 convention. My favourite line was of one delegate describing Trudeau: "He's got that Kennedy charismic" - what foresight on her part :-)

2. Now that the nation resolution is off the table, reporters scramble to find some sort of interesting policy to cover. I'm of two minds on the pulling of this resolution. I recognize it would be a divisive debate but it would be good for the party to see what it's members thought of this.

3. The latest SES poll shows that the Liberal Party needs to renew itself. Now, which candidate is committed to renewal again?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

If I were the Calgary Grit, here's how it happened

I really don’t want to make a big deal out of this since for most of you this is just substituting one Liberal you’ve never met for another, but I’ve decided to “come out” and write under my real name from now on. So, without further delay, say goodbye to Bart Ramson and say hello to...

Art Vandelay. OK, OK, for real this time:

(Drum roll please)

Calgary Grit is, in reality, Dan Arnold.

When I started blogging, I felt writing under a pseudonym would give me a bit more leeway to vent and be critical of the Liberal Party. But I don’t see any real reason to continue on with the charade and I figure being in the open allows me to recap events a bit better, do some media, and, besides all that, it’s not a huge secret anymore that there really is no Bart Ramson. I was at a Scott Brison event this spring and Scott came up to me, winked and said “slow night in the blogging world, eh?”(and we all know how good Scott is at keeping inside information secret…). So apologies to anyone I’ve deceived along the way.

For those wanting the 30 second bio, I’m currently President of the Alberta Young Liberals (slogan: “the best form of youthful rebellion in Alberta!”). For the past year, I’ve actually been living in Edmonton as I work on my Masters in Statistics at the U of A. I figure “Calgary Grit” sounds better than “Edmonton Grit”, so I’ll keep the blog name and I get back to Harpertown enough that I think I can still pass for a Calgary Liberal.

Like I said, no biggie. This shouldn’t change this blog around at all, except I may start talking a bit more about the Edmonton Liberal scene (which, at least federally, now bears a striking resemblance to Calgary…).

Tonight I fly to Montreal - I've still got my final thoughts on the final four posts saved as drafts so I'll try and get them up at some point as well as the updated Race for Stornoway section. And, hey, if you find yourself in Montreal feel free to track me down and say hello...

Axworthy On Board

For those who missed it, former Trudeau advisor and chair of the renewal commission, Tom Axworthy has endorsed Gerard Kennedy.

"I have just been shocked by what I've learned, and therefore the candidate who spoke most convincingly and generally and enthusiastically about revitalizing the party as an institution from top to bottom was Kennedy and that's why I went for him,'' said Axworthy, a Queen's University political science professor.

''Liberals they decide upon winnability and they decide upon policy issues and so on. My big concern is the future long-term viability of the Liberal party and he's the candidate in my view who has the best position when it comes to that.''

In Other News...

-"Final" delegate totals are up on and Dryden has moved ahead of Volpe for 5th place.

-There's another delegate poll out and it seems to match most of the Ekos numbers from a few months back. Given that twenty questions were asked, this will be another which can be spun in a million directions. Dion does well among the second choice options, although half the delegates are still undecided as to who they pick as number two. Iggy is still seen as the most likely to win an election. Kennedy has passed Rae on the second choice list and the poll showed more delegates oppose Harper's nation motion than support it which bodes well for him.

-Welcome your newest member of Parliament - Glen Pearson. Elizabeth May made it close and can be proud of her showing while Dianne Haskett...well, the Tories better make sure she's not heir candidate the next time Londoners go to the polls.

Glen Pearson, Liberal: 13,287 (34.9)
Elizabeth May, Green: 9,864 (25.9)
Dianne Haskett, Conservative: 9,309 (24.4)
Megan Walker, NDP: 5,388 (14.1)

-Ed Stelmach has picked up endorsements from the 4th, 5th and 6th place candidates in the PC leadership race. I probably won't get a chance to comment on this much over the next few days so I'll just say: Premier Stelmach - you heard it hear second.

-Peter Van Loan will be taking over Michael Chong's responsibilities at Intergovernmental Affairs. Presumably these will include buying Stephen Harper's National Post and Double-Double every morning.

-Gerard Kennedy will be on the Rick Mercer Report Tonight. Presumably he will be fully clothed for the entire duration of the segment.

-The first two rounds of the bloggers roundtable are up on Macleans. In them, we bat around the nation question and foreign policy and I conclude that Gerard rocks, Jason concludes that Dion rocks, Ted conclude that Iggy rocks and John concluds that Rae rocks.

Round 1
Round 2

Monday, November 27, 2006

Men of Principle

Updated at bottom...

I think the most upsetting thing about this nation notion is how it is being rammed down the throats of parliamentarians and Canadians without any proper debate on the topic and respect for the will of Canadians. There's a reason that Meech and Charlottetown were so popular with the elites at first but crumbled once Canadians had a say and, given a bit more time, we'd see the same thing on this Harper/Duceppe/Ignatieff/Dion/whoeverelseistakingcreditforit motion.

People are starting to speak out - Ken Dryden has announced he will be voting against the motion tonight. I encourage everyone to read his statement because he has, as usual, eloquently summed up how Canadians feel. Michael Chong has taken an even bigger step, resigning from Harper's Cabinet over this. Remember, this is his Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs - the man in charge of this sort of stuff who was apparently not even consulted on what he thought. Chong's resignation just shows how this is being forced onto parliamentarians by leaders too afraid to lose votes in Quebec. Read Gloria Galloway's Friday article in the Globe on how this resolution was hatched. Here's how the Liberals decided to support the resolution:

About 10 minutes before it ended, Mr. Graham and Mr. Harper had a tete-a-tete in the rear hallway. Mr. Harper told the Liberal Leader about the motion. Mr. Graham listened, but did not offer a commitment. Nor did he bring it back to his caucus. Instead, he consulted some "key" MPs, and decided to sign on.

There wasn't even a caucus debate over what amounted to a reversal of the Liberal Party's traditional position on National Unity. Now, I understand that Graham, Layton, and Harper were all under the gun because of the Duceppe motion but I would have hoped that one of them would have recognized that Canadians as a whole do not support this. Tom Axworthy, Serge Joyal, and Jerry Grafstein have a fantastic article in the Globe today detailing the opposition of Canadians to the officialized ethnic nationalism being thrust on us. Consider some of the following polls:

Ipsos Reid (November 6th)
-42% indicate that if they knew that the new leader of the Liberal Party wanted to "recognize Quebec as a nation within the country of Canada" they would be "less likely to vote Liberal", versus just 10% who say this would make them more likely to support the Liberal party.

-Among self-identified Liberal supporters, 44% say this potential development would make them less likely to vote Liberal (15% say it would make them more likely to vote Liberal).

CBC Poll (November 7th)

Do you think that Quebec is a nation within Canada?
Yes 39%
No 57%
NA 4%

The same question, among Quebeckers:
Yes 61%
No 34%
NA 5%

A 2004 CBC Poll

Which of the following best describes your view of Quebec?

Quebec is a nation alongside the Canadian nation 16%
Quebec is a nation within the Canadian nation 17%
Quebec is one of 10 equal provinces 21%
Quebec is a province that is a distinct society within Canada 42%
Other 0%
Did not know 4%

So there you go. Canadians are against this. It appears that many Quebecers themselves are against this. And Canadians are less likely to vote for a Liberal Party which supports this sort of thing. Of course, you don't need a poll to show you that. The Liberal Party has bounced back and forth between those who take a strong stand vis-a-vis Quebec and those who follow the Tory position. Let's take a look at the results:

Trudeau/Chretien federalism
1968: 56 seats
1972: 56 seats
1974: 60 seats
1979: 67 seats
1980: 74 seats
1993: 19 seats
1997: 26 seats
2000: 36 seats

Martin/Turner federalism
1984: 17 seats
1988: 12 seats
2004: 21 seats
2006: 13 seats

Now before people jump on me, I'm aware this isn't a fair comparison but I think the point stands. The Liberal Party has had success in the past by opposing things like this. Will the party gain any votes in Quebec by supporting this motion? No. The people who are impressed with vote for Harper since he's the one who put it forward. It'd be like the Tories transforming into the "daycare party" - no one would buy it.

I know Bill Graham was under pressure on this question - I get that. I know Bob Rae was afraid of losing his Quebec delegates so he couldn't oppose it - I get that. I know there are people like Ignatieff and Dion who fall under the Meech/Turner/Martin federalism wing of this party who are probably voting their conscience on this - that's fair enough too. And I understand why many Dion organizers will be forced to criticize Gerard on his stand, even while they quietly applaud - this is a leadership race after all. But, as a whole, a Liberal Party which supports a strong Canada would be a stronger party for it. I'm just glad some members of the party recognize this.

And, yes, I'm aware that this post talked a lot about the electoral perks of opposing this so maybe "men of principle" wasn't the best title but sometimes the popular thing is the popular thing because it's also the right thing to do.


WHAAAAAAAAAAAA? After seeing Lawrence Cannon on QP yesterday, this shouldn't be surprising, but boy, does my head hurt after reading the full transcript over at Wells' site. Mark Watton picks out the best part:

Reporter: "...just to make it very, very clear, especially to my readers at The Gazette, when you talk about les Québécois does it include every resident of Quebec regardless of which boat their ancestors came over on?"

Hon. Lawrence Cannon: "No, it doesn't. It doesn't. Let's be clear on this."

The vote passed 266-16. 15 Liberals, including Dryden, Volpe, and Fry voted against it. Jack posts the list of the nays and it sure seemed to cross leadership lines with a few high profile MPs from all camps saying no. Garth Turner also voted against it while Chong and Skelton were no shows (not sure if Skelton was excused). Looks like Harper whiped it good with not a single Tory opposing the motion. No word on how many of the 266 actually knew what they were voting on...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kennedy Stands Up For Canada

What do I want in the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada?

I want someone who takes principled stands and sticks to his convictions, even when the risks are huge for doing so. I want someone who speaks on behalf of all Canadians and refuses to say that some ethnic groups or provinces are more equal than others. I want a Liberal Party leader who doesn't follow Stephen Harper's lead on federalism.

Like Warren said, this took guts, character and leadership. He could have meekly gone along with the Harper/Ignatieff motion, like most have chosen to do. Instead, he's chosen to do the difficult thing because it's the right thing to do.

The Liberal Party has never been successful when it caved to separatist demands. Just look at the last four party leaders and see which ones had success in Quebec and which ones failed there. In a year's time, the Prime Minister of Canada could be facing increased demands from Premiers Boisclair and Morton and I know who I want in charge when that happens.

Grit leadership hopeful Kennedy bucks tide, opposes Quebec nation resolution

OTTAWA (CP) - Liberal leadership hopeful Gerard Kennedy has decided to buck the tide of political opinion, coming out against a parliamentary motion recognizing Quebecers as a nation within a united Canada.

The Canadian Press has learned that Kennedy will issue a statement Monday opposing the motion, just as the House of Commons prepares to debate the surprise resolution introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week.

In so doing, Kennedy will become the only Liberal leadership contender to reject the motion, which has been embraced with varying degrees of unease by his seven rival candidates, Harper's Conservatives, most Liberal MPs and the New Democrats. Even the separatist Bloc Quebecois has come on side.

A senior Kennedy source said the third-place contender believes the motion is irresponsible and wrong for Canada.

Kennedy believes the motion raises expectations of eventual constitutional entrenchment of Quebec nationhood without defining what is meant by the word nation. Moreover, he is worried that the motion will deepen divisions in the country, the source said.

Kennedy, a former Ontario education minister, does not have a seat in the Commons but is issuing his statement in advance of the vote on Harper's motion, expected late Monday.

Kennedy's decision could give him a boost at this week's leadership convention among Liberals who are adamantly opposed to recognizing Quebec nationhood but have no other outlet for their concern.

Leadership front-runner Michael Ignatieff has enthusiastically endorsed Harper's motion, claiming that the push to recognize Quebec's nationhood began with his campaign. His principal rival, Bob Rae, and the lone Quebec contender, Stephane Dion, have grudgingly supported the motion despite reservations.

Kennedy has only two per cent support among Quebec delegates to the leadership convention in Montreal and, therefore, little to lose by distinguishing himself from his rivals.

He could also be hailed as a hero by the so-called Trudeau federalists in the party, who agree with the late Liberal icon Pierre Trudeau's adamant rejection of anything that smacks of special status for Quebec. The former prime minister's sons, Justin and Alexandre Trudeau, have spoken out against the motion. Justin last week endorsed Kennedy.

Ignatieff started the debate over Quebec's identity by coming out early in the campaign in favour of recognizing the province as a nation and eventually enshrining that status in the Constitution. The Quebec wing of the party subsequently proposed a resolution, to be considered at this week's convention, recognizing Quebec as a nation within Canada and calling for creation of a task force to advise the next leader on the best way to "officialize" that status.

That resolution sparked a ferocious debate within the party. Ignatieff supported it but his rivals, particularly Rae, Dion and Kennedy, opposed it, fearing it would lead the country into another bout of corrosive constitutional wrangling.

Last week, the Bloc tried to drive the wedge deeper by introducing a motion calling on the Commons to recognize Quebecers as a nation - with no mention of Canada. Harper pre-empted the Bloc by introducing his own counter-motion.

Harper's carefully chosen wording - specifying that the Quebecois, not the province, form a nation "within a united Canada" - won over Dion, Rae and most Liberal MPs.

The fate of the more controversially worded Liberal resolution remains to be settled and the issue could yet rupture the party's leadership convention.

Policy Watch

With all the hullabaloo about Quebec nationhood last week, some key policy announcements from Gerard Kennedy were overshadowed. So, I'm going to take a minute to repost them here just because the only way the man could get media attention in this race would be to announce he plans to nationalize the banks, introduce abortion laws, raise the GST and then streak naked across Parliament Hill - even even then, the only reason he'd get press is because the media is more fascinated by Liberal candidates who bare all than by those who talk about policy. [/end rant]

Party Renewal

I've said from the start that the Liberal Party needs to renew itself. If you're a Liberal who thinks things are all rosy in Liberal land and that the last election was just the voters sending the Liberals to the penalty box, only to be returned to our natural governing party status within a year, then this won't mean much to you. If you think the party needs to make real changes and work to regain the trust of Canadians, then it's probably worth a read.

Gerard has released a very detailed discussion paper on this which I encourage everyone to read. I'm not 100% sold on all the ideas in there but here are some of the ones I really do like:

• Developing a detailed and ongoing policy process that will engage Liberals and other interested Canadians including regularly circulated discussion papers and a policy weekend to discuss and debate reports (including a "Liberal Policy Weekend" within 3 months of the leadership vote).

• Developing a 308 riding strategy for the next election to win seats and become more competitive in traditionally unheld ridings.

• Implement a three-line voting system. To make the system meaningful, in any parliamentary session, no more than 25 per cent of votes should be three-line votes (ie - confidence motions) and at least 50 per cent of votes should be one-line votes (ie - free votes).

• Mandate that every caucus member hold six town hall meeting per year with their constituents in order to qualify to run in the next election.

• Create an Equal Voice Unit to ensure that the party has 50% female candidates and a 50% female Cabinet. The unit will develop a system of fundraising, candidate recruitment, and help train female candidates and female campaign managers to help ensure we meet the above outlined targets.


I'll be honest - agriculture isn't a big issue for me. But I know Gerard is committed to making gains in Western Canada so it's good to see him putting forward some ideas which should appeal to farmers. You can click here for the specific proposals but the key messages from the platform are:

• Revamp and strengthen farm income support systems with increased share from the federal government.

• Devise an investment strategy to promote diversification, innovation and value-added growth in agriculture to benefit primary producers.

• Pursue a reinvigorated trade and domestic marketing plan, which defends the rights of Canadian farmers and opens new opportunities in order to ensure that our farmers have the economies of scale that the larger market requires.

Foreign Policy

Gerard didn't announce any new foreign policy this week but I was very pleased to see that Stephane Dion has followed Gerard's lead on Afghanistan in calling for a withdrawal if the current mandate isn't changed. It just goes to show that despite only having provincial experience, Kennedy can certainly hold his own on national issues such as foreign policy.

Loose Cannon

Go to the one minute mark of this video of Lawrence Cannon on QP today where Lawrence explains who the Quebecois are:

"Basically the Quebecois are the original Canadians who landed here 400 years ago in Quebec City and founded Quebec City."

Then, at the five minute mark:

"If we go and speak to the person in the street who is in Shawville Quebec, and you ask him if he's a Quebecois and a Canadian, he'll say yes, I may be a Quebecois, but I'm also a Quebecker, I am a Canadian, and he knows formally where he's come from and where a strong majority of Quebeckers have come from. They've immigrated from France."

So, at least in the eyes of Lawrence Cannon, the motion Harper has proposed is to recognize that the pur laine form a nation within Canada. Ahh...ethnic nationalism...

I'd also like to draw attention to Warren's petition and encourage everyone to sign:

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne outlines some of the confusion about the wording in the resolution.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ted Morton Is The Man

I can't find the results on TV anywhere so I'm following along on Larry Johnsrude's blog. Of course, Larry has decided to blog cryptic updates rather than numbers which is a bit frustrating.

From his latest update, it sounds like Ted Morton is doing quite well and it's shaping into a two man race.

Which means the race is down to Ted Morton is the Man versus Sing a Song for Jim.

UPDATE: With 33 of 83 polls in, Dinning leads, but it's not by a large margin.

Dinning 10,281
Morton 8,364
Stelmach 5,747
Oberg 4,427
Norris 2,612
Hancock 2,269
McPherson 264
Doerksen 526

UPDATE: With 63 of 83 polls reporting:

Dinning 20,837
Morton 18,897
Stelmach 11,523
Oberg 8,636

If Stelmach can get his total a bit higher and get some endorsements, he might have a chance. Either way, there are going to be some interesting votes next Saturday in both the Quebec and Alberta nations.

UPDATE: The Final Results:

Jim Dinning 29470 (30.2%)
Ted Morton 25648 (26.2%)
Ed Stelmach 14967 (15.31%)
Lyle Oberg 11638 (11.9%)
Dave Hancock 7595 (7.8%)
Mark Norris 6789 (6.9%)
Victor Doerksen 873 (0.9%)
Gary McPherson 744 (0.8%)


The Morning After UPDATE: It's a three man race which anyone could win. Which means next Saturday is going to be one hell of a day for political junkies. Seriously, if you like politics, savour it, because it's hard to imagine the stars ever being aligned like this again.

As for the race to replace Ralph, it's a tough one. It's a preferential ballot so, one imagines, if Stelmach can claw his way up to second place, he'll win. But he'll need to double his vote to do that which means, along with Hancock who has endorsed him, he'll need to get Norris and Oberg onside.

Morton did a lot better than anyone imagined and might actually win this thing which would be something Canadians living outside the Alberta nation would have to take notice of. Getting over 50% will still be difficult for him, but I wouldn't count it out, especially if he gets Oberg's support.

As for Dinning, I'd still put my money on him but, man, has he ever got to be worried. He's been working at this for a decade but didn't even come close to the Paul Martin dominance people expected. It's possible a lot of his supporters just stayed home because they thought he was a lock to make it to the second ballot and this should be a wake up call for them. Luckily Morton is his main challenger so he can paint this as a Morton-Dinning battle.

Canada Under Attack

Historian Michael Bliss has a fantastic article in today's Post:

Let there be no misunderstanding about concepts of nation and nationality. The only two meanings of "nation" are (1) a human group bound together by ethnic ties, i.e. ties of blood; (2) a territorial unit that exercises political independence. We call aboriginal Canadians "nations" in that racial or ethnic sense; they used to be seen as tribes. We call Canada a "nation" in the political sense because it is an independent country.

In what sense can Quebecers be considered a nation? Quebec is not an independent country. If Quebecers are a nation because they are of the French-Canadian tribe, the volk, as the Germans used to say, then we are legitimizing racial/ethnic concepts that
are ugly almost beyond belief in the 21st century. We turn all Quebecers who don't have the right blood -- all the Schwartzes and Cohens and others -- into second-class citizens.

"Oh, no," say the politicians and Quebecers who know how offensive the old ethnic nationalism has become. "We're talking here about Quebec and Quebecers as a civic nation -- all those people who live in a territory with a distinctive mix of language, ethnic groups, culture and historical experiences."

The trouble with that redefinition of nation is that all other poliltical territories become nations because every jurisdiction has its own distinctive mix of language, ethnic groups, culture and historical experiences. If Quebec forms a civic nation, then the people of every province of Canada also form civic nations. So, perhaps, do most Canadian cities, towns and villages. The redefined term is meaninglessness and those who use it are spouting intellectual fraud that many of us think is a front for the covert
racism of the old ethnic nationalists.

Bliss is bang on. If you take the definition of nation as a people with a common language, culture, history and territory, you wind up in a world of hurt. First of all, Quebec is an incredibly diverse society, made up of people from a wide range of backgrounds so, unless you want to make the argument that only pure laine are part of the nation, there's no real case to be made. Because, at that point, who isn't a nation. Let's look at the Calgary Nation:

Common land? Yup. Calgary.
Common language? English. A larger percentage of Calgarians speak English than Quebeckers who speak French.
Common culture? There's Stampede. The Flames. The music (country) and the politics (Tory). Seems fairly unique to me.
Common history? Bitching about Ottawa together since 1905.

What about Scott Tribe's Leafs Nation?

Common land? The GTA. Much like francophones outside Quebec, Leaf fans outside Toronto are chopped liver.
Common language? English, by and large. They also have their own chants.
Common culture? Culture of defeat (which, according to Stephen Harper, doesn't make them any different from the Maritime nation I guess...).
Common history? A history of failure.

I could go on and on. But the bottom line is that there is no way to intellectually defend Harper's nation proposal. It's made the Bloc look stupid so call it smart politics if you want but I have yet to hear a compelling argument as to why this is the right thing to do.

Trudeau Endorses Kennedy

Judge for yourself how much it's worth but, man, did it ever feel good to write that post title down.

Trudeau endorses Kennedy's leadership bid
From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Justin Trudeau is endorsing Gerard Kennedy in the race for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party.

The son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau said yesterday that he believes the former Ontario cabinet minister offers the best chance for a genuine renewal of the party that will move it closer to grassroots members.

“To my mind, Gerard represents the best chance for creating genuine solutions to appeal to all Canadians,” Mr. Trudeau said in a telephone interview from Calgary.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trudeau, 34, has suggested that front-runner Michael Ignatieff doesn't have the “wisdom” necessary to be the best Liberal leader and said he doesn't think that Bob Rae “has the great vision necessary.”

He had suggested that he was wavering between Mr. Kennedy and former Liberal cabinet minister Stéphane Dion. He attended an event in Montreal last Tuesday at which Mr. Kennedy spoke about renewing the party.

Mr. Trudeau said he's concluded that the Liberal Party has become dominated by its backroom and by non-elected officials, and that it is not enough simply for the party to change leaders or tinker with its policies.

“This has been a party that has drifted away from the grassroots toward the corporate donorship that has always worked but no longer works in Canada right now,” he said. “We need to be really brave about taking a fresh look and listening to people and sharing the power and the privilege of power that the Canadian people keeps granting the Liberal Party.”

He said he had talked to the top candidates and found them to be decent people but said that the party needs bold leadership and “there is really one choice and that's Gerard.”

Mr. Kennedy said he was delighted to receive Mr. Trudeau's endorsement but he was careful to play down its impact.

“I'm very pleased to have the endorsement that Justin Trudeau provides but I also look at it as the Justin endorsement, not necessarily the Trudeau [endorsement], where some of his high profile comes from.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Kennedy, who goes to Montreal in third place in delegate support, is hoping that the endorsement by the son of the former prime minister will boost the profile of his campaign.

“I don't overestimate — and I don't think Justin Trudeau does either — that the whole campaign will hinge on this, but I do think that what it will hinge on is just a sense that there's a little bit of an underestimated campaign in terms of what we've been bringing and this is our chance to get it into focus,” he said in an interview.

“It's mainly what I do but this is a help toward that.”

Mr. Trudeau has observer status at the convention but is hopeful that “backfilling” a delegate vacancy would allow him to vote.

He Ain't Heavy (in debt), He's My Brother

Submitted without comment:

Bob Rae has collected $1-million in donations and borrowed $845,000.
Michael Ignatieff has collected $1-million in donations and borrowed $170,000.
Gerard Kennedy has collected $453,595 in donations and borrowed $201,750.
Stephane Dion has collected $284,976 in donations and borrowed $480,000.

Due to Popular Demand

Thanks to an intensive lobbying campaign by a certain individual, I'm pleased to endorse Brian Clow for the ever important VP Finance position of the Young Liberals of Canada. Brian's a great guy who will do good work and he has my vote.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Final Thoughts on the Final Four

Before I head off to Montreal next week, I thought I would give some final thoughts on the "Big 4" candidates in this race. Gerard is obviously my top choice but I'm perfectly happy supporting any of the other three should they win. They all have great positives and I haven't completely made up my mind as to which one would be my second choice should things not unfold as I hope they will in Montreal. I also have no freaking clue as to who has the best chance of the four to win which should make for a very exciting Saturday. So, over the coming days, I'll be taking a closer look at the front runners.

However, it's important not to overlook the other candidates in this race and not just because who they choose to support could determine this race. I honestly believe that many of the bottom four deserved a better fate and if I was filling out a preferential ballot I'd certainly rank a few of them above some of the perceived front runners. So, in fairness, today I'll give some quick final thoughts on the bottom four candidates:

Martha Hall Findlay

My Profile
Globe Profile
My Interview

Martha Hall Findlay is probably the feel good story of the campaign and probably one of the best things for the Liberal Party to come out of the race. It's no secret that the party is short on female talent in the front benches but Martha has turned herself into an individual who is universally respected in the party and the media and who showed herself to be a rising political star. The important thing to remember, which is often overlooked, is that Martha could have been the punchline of the campaign. Instead, Martha has proven that she completely rocks and that she has a bright future in this party.

Scott Brison

My Profile
Globe Profile
My Interview

I'm genuinely surprised at how poorly Brison did during this leadership campaign. He's a gifted speaker, has political experience, and would represent generational change for this party. The Income Trust e-mails just seem to have derailed his campaign before it ever got off the ground.

Despite this, my impression of Brison has probably gone up more than mine of any other candidate over the course of this race. I took my fair share of pot shots at him back during the last election and this spring but throughout this race he impressed at the debates, he impressed at his events, and he actually put policy out on the table. I don't have any doubts that Brison would make a fantastic opposition leader and I do think he still has a bright future in this party, even after his poor showing this race.

Ken Dryden

My Profile
Globe Profile
My Interview

It's hard not to feel bad for Ken after this race. He's, without a doubt, the most genuine politician you'll ever meet and it's hard to find a cynical bone in his body - maybe that's what did him in. As I said in my interview recap, he's the type of person who should be Prime Minister - he's just not suited to the real world of politics.

Still, Ken's talk of "big Canada" and his work on the childcare file has been a big benefit to the Liberal Party. It will be a pleasure to listen to his speech on the Friday of the convention.

As for Joe...well...the less said about that the better.

Meanwhile, In The Tiny Albertan Nation...

There's a new poll out today of Alberta PC members (in early November). In a race like this, I really don't trust the poll numbers, but it gives a sense of how the race is shapping up:

Q: Of the eight candidates to replace Ralph Klein as PC leader, which one will you vote for?
Jim Dinning 21%
Ted Morton 18%
Lyle Oberg 11%
Ed Stelmach 10%
Mark Norris 7%
Dave Hancock 6%
Gary McPherson 2%
Victor Doerksen 1%
Don't know 25%

I'd like to point out that this is fairly close to my predictions I made a few weeks back. Obviously, Morton has jumped ahead of Oberg due to his new jingle and the fact that he's not a complete idiot.

For those wanting to glance through my profiles, I've listed them bellow. I've also added a few "endorsements" for what they're worth:

Best for Alberta Liberal Party: Ted Morton
Best for Alberta Liberals: Lyle Oberg
If I had to pick a Premier: Dave Hancock
Best choice for the PC Party: Ed Stelmach

Profiles (with links to their websites)

Dave Hancock
Lyle Oberg
Mark Norris
Ted Morton
Ed Stelmach
Gary and Victor
Jim Dinning

MUSICAL UPDATE: I didn't think anything could be worse than the Ted Morton song, but Jim Dinning seems to have one upped him. This one is truly horrific.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

An Endorsement

For the record, I'll be voting for Senator Marie Poulin for LPC President at the upcoming leadership convention. I'd like to re-emphasize that all three candidates are very qualified and will do great work should they be elected. In my view Senator Poulin has the best grasp on the challenges facing the Liberal Party at this point and has thought long and hard about the solutions to them. She's got an extremely detailed fundraising section of her platform and, having talked to her, she's committed to switching the focus to grass roots fundraising and going for the smaller donations.

I've also been impressed with her focus on the internet and technology. As a former CBC executive, she understands the needs to communicate to the grass roots and she's been very vocal about the party using the Internet and technology for fundraising and communications.

For more information, be sure to visit the candidate websites or read blog interviews they've done. If you're still on the fence, be sure to check out their speeches at convention and make sure to vote because this is an important, albeit incredibly unglamorous, vote.

Senator Marie Poulin
Gauntlet interview
CG Interview

Tony Ianno
Gauntlet Interview

Bobbi Ethier
Gauntlet interview
CG interview

Custody Battle

I thought yesterday was weird. So far, today is shaping up to be just as bizarre as everyone scrambles to try and take credit for Harper's resolution.

Exhibit 1: Michael Ignatieff

By Thursday morning, Ignatieff was firmly planting his flag in the initiative.

"It really did start with us, in the leadership campaign, going into small towns in Quebec, reaching out, listening to Quebecers . . . ,'' he told CTV's Canada-AM.

"They asked us, as a party, to affirm their distinctiveness, their particular place in the history of our country and I was pleased in my campaign to do so. And I think we have every reason to say this started with us.''

Exhibit B: Stephane Dion

NATIONAL NEWSWATCH - During an interview Thursday afternoon with New Brunswick talk radio show host Tom Young, Liberal Leadership candidate Stephane Dion took partial credit for Prime Minister Harper's stand asking the House of Commons to declare that Quebec is a nation — "within a united Canada."

Describing himself as a "trouble fixer," Dion told host Tom Young that the prime minister called him for advice on how to solve the Quebec Nation issue. Dion indicated he advised the PM on how to fix the problem. He also indicated that he will be supporting the government motion because it's very close to the solution he freely gave the prime minister.

I've got four draft posts sitting on my computer I'm planning for post this weekend with my final thoughts on the final four candidates. One of the reasons I had against voting Ignatieff as my second choice was his view on federalism. One of the reasons I had in favour of going Dion as my second choice was his view on federalism. I still think you can learn a lot about candidates by the way they've handled this question but if all four frontrunners endorse this resolution (which I unfortunately think they will), it's pretty much taken this off the table as a policy issue.

It's Come To This

3 updates at the bottom...

On his blog, Warren Kinsella calmly asks: "WHO WILL SPEAK FOR CANADA, NOW?"

Well, to answer Warren's question, it appears that the man who will speak for Canada is...wait for it...Jimmy K:

However, at least one Liberal, Jim Karygiannis, said he would oppose [Harper's motion].

“Are we going to have a Greek nation within Canada, a Ukrainian nation within Canada, a Chinese nation within Canada? Sorry, Canada is the nation,” Karygiannis asked.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne, who is shockingly not amused by this, has more reaction, including this piece.

UPDATE 2: Go on and Bleed has some classic quotes.

UPDATE 3 - A United Canada?: The Globe has quotes from some living people:

• Quebec Premier Jean Charest: “The recognition of Quebec as a nation is a way for us to occupy the place that is owed us in Canada and elsewhere in the world. In my view it is a very significant gesture.” (The Globe and Mail)

• Manitoba Premier Gary Doer: “To me, Canada is one nation, one country. I understand Quebec is unique in terms of language, culture and law, but Canada is one country.” (Winnipeg Free Press)

• Alberta Residents League chairman Pat Beauchamp: “Go ahead. If you are a nation within a nation, just go ahead and leave. Leave completely.” (Calgary Herald)

• The Edmonton Sun: “Up until about mid-afternoon yesterday, we thought Prime Minister Stephen Harper was doing a pretty good job in the office he was handed – if only on a trial basis – last January. But some time about halfway between lunchtime and the supper hour yesterday he lost us. And we fear he may have turned off a whole lot of other Canadians in the process.”

• The Globe and Mail: “Mr. Harper has mitigated the damage by removing most of the political sting from the word (nation), while leaving the recognition of Quebeckers as a special community within Canada. Hard to argue with that, even if you belong to a different special community.”

• The National Post: “We must somehow summon up all our will -- and leave well enough alone. We wish Mr. Harper had had the will to do so, rather than starting down a path few in this country want him to take.”

• Winnipeg Free Press editorial: “Mr. Harper had an opportunity to speak for Canada to all Canadians, and he did not.”

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Reviews Roll In!

From the French Canadian Association of Alberta. You can run the translation yourself but, take my word, it's scathing:

Pour diffusion immédiate

Communiqué de presse

Si le Québec est une nation : Est-ce que l’histoire, la culture et la langue des francophones du Canada se limitent au territoire québécois ?

Edmonton, le 22 novembre 2006 – Le président de l’ACFA, Jean Johnson, réagit vivement aux propos du premier ministre Stephen Harper qui reconnaît le Québec comme une nation: « Est-ce qu’on est entrain de dire au million de Canadiens francophones vivant à l’extérieur du Québec et au 1,5 million de francophiles que la langue, l’histoire et la culture francophone au Canada se limitent au territoire québécois? ». Selon M. Johnson, le premier ministre semble prêt à tout pour charmer les Québécois et gagner leurs votes, même à diviser le Canada.

Monsieur Johnson croit que le gouvernement de monsieur Harper devrait faire la promotion de la dualité linguistique au pays, plutôt que de miner les valeurs canadiennes. Il se questionne sur les intentions du gouvernement quant au français au Canada : « Comment le premier ministre définit-il plus d’un million d’autres francophones vivants à l’extérieur du Québec? Des citoyens de deuxième classe? ». En Alberta, c’est plus de 66 000 francophones et 205 000 francophiles qui sont en droit de se demander quel est le statut du français au sein de la nation canadienne.

L’ACFA déplore cette annonce du gouvernement qui survient quelques jours après que le Québec ait manifesté son intention de jouer un rôle de leader au sein de la francophonie canadienne d’un bout à l’autre du pays : « Il y a confusion au niveau des messages, le gouvernement du Québec veut faire parti du Canada, mais le gouvernement du Canada préfère jouer le jeu du Bloc québécois », a affirmé le président de l’ACFA.


Pour informations : Patrick Henri, directeur des communications

So Much For Sanity

Well, that wasn't awkward at all, I guess. I must say, I didn't expect this:

Quebec is a nation within a united Canada, but will never stand alone, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.

This is being heralded as some sort of compromise when, in fact, all Harper has done is taken the BQ motion and clarified that it refers to Quebec being a nation in Canada as supposed to...I dunno...Denmark?

As a result, everyone is left looking like an idiot.

"Quebeckers ... know they've participated in the founding of Canada and its development and in its greatness. They know that they've protected their language and unique culture, but they've also promoted their values and interests within Canada," Mr. Harper said.

By tying language to this, Harper is giving the va te faire foutre to Anglophone, Allophone, and aboriginal Quebecers (but, then again, they all vote Liberal anyways). He also looks like he's selling out his principles to score a few seats in Quebec which I'm sure will go over well with his base.

"How could we ever support a motion on Quebec by a party that has zero commitment to Canada, which is blind to the greatness available for Quebeckers within Canada, a country in which they are at home from coast to coast to coast because we have sought to make them at home, because it is their home," Mr. Graham said.

So, in other words, we didn't like the Bloc calling Quebec a nation but if the Tories want to do that, we're cool with it? WHAAAAAAA?

"It isn't up to the Prime Minister to decide what Quebeckers will choose as an option. It's up to Quebeckers," Mr. Duceppe said.

"The refusal to recognize the Quebec nation, the refusal to acknowledge an obvious reality, is something that we could call a blockage in Canada.

Excusez-moi? How is calling Quebec "a nation within Canada" a refusal to acknowledge that Quebec is a nation?

Tories, Grits, and NDP
Harper said the Bloc's intent is clear: it's not about Quebec as a nation, he said. "It's about separation. For them, 'nation' means 'separation.'''

The opposition Liberals and NDP declared their support for Harper's motion, for the sake of a united Canada.

Let me be clear. Harper says calling Quebec a "nation" will make separatists think it means Quebec should separate. So...we're going to call Quebec a nation. Uh-huh. The Dippers and Grits feel that this is perfectly logical so they'll pat Harper on his back.

Pro-Nation Crowd
The argument they gave was that this would be a great way to make Quebecers give up their dreams of sovereignty and would not necessitate any (new) special powers...

"Never will I accept that the only condition to be a nation is to recognize the right to remain in Canada."

Having Ottawa officially recognize a Quebec nation should be more than a symbolic gesture, Mr. Duceppe said. It is the most fundamental question facing Quebec, and it was also a fundamental issue for Canada as a whole, he said.

Anti-Nation Liberals
It sounds like several Liberals, including Mr. Dion, who opposed the motion from the Quebec wing are ready to support this one. If they do, it would be a massive revirement.

So, in short, everyone ends up looking like an imbécile. And, as a consequence, Michael Ignatieff looks less ridiculous in comparison. So he and Jean Charest are probably the only winners in this sorry, sorry spectacle we should not have had to go through.

UPDATE: OK, OK, maybe Iggy doesn't come across looking so clean on this. The Star story implies he's now taking credit for taking us into this mess which he has been trying to stress over the past few days he had nothing to do with:

Ignatieff himself took credit for getting the ball rolling on recognition of Quebec as a nation.

One on One with Bob Rae

I had the opportunity to do a phone interview with Bob Rae last week. As a result, I’ve now had the privilege to interview all the candidates in this race…with one notable exception. I’ve got to admit it’s kind of frustrating – it’s like having every Happy Days episode on tape except the one where the Fonz jumps the shark. Alas, much like Joe’s vote, I suspect that interview will never materialize.

Let me just say that the one thing I’ve learned from doing these interviews is that I have a lot to learn about technology. My latest life lesson is that putting a tape recorder up to a cell phone to record will lead to a recording with nothing but back feed and static. As a result, I don’t have a transcript of Rae’s answers but I did take notes very closely so I feel I managed to capture everything he said.

I won’t editorialize or comment on any of his answers right now – I’ll save that for my final run down of the contenders. What I will say is that Bob Rae was by far the most concise of all the candidates I’ve interviewed; you can certainly tell he’s been doing this for a long time. I did, however, find his answer to question three very interesting...

1. First of all, was it your idea or Rick’s to do the skinny dipping?

(laughs) “Let’s call it a combined and spontaneous decision. Spontaneous combustion might be the best way to describe it.”

2. When Paul Wells asked you if Quebec was a nation for his book, your response was: “Yeah. Nation, people, distinct society. It's all the same. It's just words. It's a set of words. It means that you recognize the distinctiveness of the collectivity of quebec. It is something we should have done in 1985 in Meech and in 1992 with Charlottetown. And something we should be doing.” How is that different from what Michael Ignatieff is proposing?

Rae said the difference is in “focus” – given his experience he just doesn’t see the point in going back down the constitutional road. He’d like to find a way to recognize Quebec’s “special character” in the federation but constitutional change is not the best way to do it.

I then asked if he’d like to see an amended resolution pass at the convention and he felt that improvising on the spot isn’t the best way to do it. He’s working with the other candidates to find the best way to handle it.

3. What is the one thing, above all else, that Prime Minister Bob Rae would do which likely wouldn’t get done by your competitors in this race? In other words, what policy are you proposing which differs you from your opponents?

Rae feels that there’s “common ground” among the candidates on policy. When it comes to things like the economy, innovation and new learning, they’re all speaking the same language. He does see some differences in foreign policy but feels the real thing which sets him apart from the other candidates is not so much his ideas but his experience.

4. How do you think the Liberal Party can breakthrough in Western Canada and, in particular, Alberta?

Rae first observed that the west is a very diverse place so one strategy might not be appropriate. He feels there’s some potential for growth and that the NDP split has hurt us in some places like Saskatchewan. He feels some of his agricultural and economic policies should play well in farm communities and says the Liberals can have success if they propose practical solutions rather than Harper who only proposes ideological ones (such as the Wheat Board).

The key, according to Rae, is for the party and the leader to physically spend more time here. The leader needs to work with ridings and candidates and help to build up the party’s organizational strength.

I asked him if he had any specific ideas which would play well in Alberta and he said that his agricultural policy would be popular here. He also feels that Albertans believe in sustainability, mentioning Preston Manning’s “green sensibility”.

5. What’s your general pitch to Liberal delegates and take home message at this time?

For Rae, the race is about choices. We’re electing a party leader, an opposition leader, and a Prime Minister. Liberals need someone who can speak to the whole country and expand the party’s base. To do this, we need someone who has credibility. He feels all the candidates have different abilities and it’s up to delegates to make the choice.

He ended by saying he’s enjoyed the race and that he expects it to be a lively convention.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

State of the Nations

This is vewy vewy intewesting:

Bloc Québécois supply day motion, debate to be held (whoops! Updated:) Thursday, vote to be held Monday or Tuesday:

"Que cette Chambre reconnaisse que les Québécoises et les Québécois forment une nation."

This is going to put Stephen Harper in an awkward situation since he has repeatedly (and wisely) dodged the question (I bet he wishes he had an EU meeting or something to run off to!). My prediction is he'll use the "nation is an ambiguous term" defense but, even then, he's damned either way he votes.

And, strange as it sounds, the Liberal leadership contender this is going to be the most difficult for is Stephane Dion. Muddled as he is on this, it's clear enough that Iggy can vote yes and be (relatively speaking) consistent with his position(s). Kennedy and Rae don't have seats so they get a crucial exemption. That leaves Stephane Dion to tap-dance.

One on One with GK - part 2

You can read the first part of this interview here. Stay tuned for Bob tomorrow,

5. You’ve proposed a national learning strategy. As a former education minister are you at all concerned about the federal government going into provincial jurisdictions?

What I’m saying is that we need a national learning strategy. The federal government is in a position to do a lot of good working with the provinces. The provincial ministers know they need to step up and provide some form of national standards and co-operation to keep up with what’s happening internationally. What they will generally say is that they don’t have the resources. The federal government has to ensure that we don’t have any excuses for not keeping up.

The OECD study showed a 37% increase in enrolment in post-secondary education among the countries we compete with and in Canada it was 3%. We simply cannot advantage ourselves if we don’t find a way to have a consistent means of investing in education.

The jurisdictional part can be respected to a good degree. But like other challenges we have, we need a new way to collaborate with the provinces. What we need to ask is what power sharing arrangement will work best for the country? All of our efforts need to be focused on allowing us to compete with the global economy. I’m less interested in historical areas of jurisdiction but I am respectful of them. The provinces understand that they need to step up and set some national standards. The provinces need to step up and set those standards themselves but if that doesn’t happen, I’m determined to make it happen anyways.

We’re going to have a national daycare program and it’s going to be early learning. It will likely be even more focused than the effort we had before the last election. And we will have a catch-up in terms of research and development and post-secondary for funding, but those things need to come with an assurance of access and quality. There’s no other way we can get the Canadian public to see these investments are worthwhile. There’s no such thing as blank cheque federalism – federalism works both ways.

6. Any final thoughts on the campaign as we approach the convention?

What I’m trying to get to people right now is making sure that they understand the real price of admission and the real way to get success. There’s no shortcut available to us. I’m recommending a lot of hard work for the Liberal Party and it’s members and what I think is that we have to accept that politics have changed – the question is will the Liberal Party change? That doesn’t just mean the internal reforms. They matter but there's more which needs to be done.

The global economy is changing us and we haven’t sufficiently taken charge of that change. We also have an international community which needs leadership to come from Canada. It’s an ambition that I think Liberals need to contend with now. We can’t simply think about getting back without first thinking about why. Why does this country need Liberals? My counsel is that for those who think it’s simply going to be a reaction to Stephen Harper and we’re better than the other guys, is that those days are gone. There was a poll yesterday that said 62% of Canadians say we’re not ready to govern yet. It’s an earned priviledge. I’m hoping to make that a visceral issue. It’s about good jobs in some parts of the country. It’s about sustained growth, not just boom and bust cycles. It’s about a sense of purposes. I believe leadership isn’t just about spending money, it’s also about being prepared to lead the whole country, not just the federal departments. It’s about forging consensus with the municipal government, the provinces, the business sector, the world of labour, not for profits, and citizens at large. For me this is a condition we’ve fallen away from and we need to go after it.

I’m asking for a mandate to do two things. To make the Liberal Party one which will function again and will work in a much more effective way. The second thing is that I want to put forward a fairly ambitious view as to where we want to go long term. Tell Canadians that we want back in because we’re needed, not because we’re tired of these guys or that we think we’re entitled to it.

7. I’ve asked a lot of the other candidates this as well. For you, who would you have voted for on the Greatest Canadian show the CBC did a few years back?

Some people out there like Jean Vanier are pretty underrated in terms of what they did. He did a world based movement to respect people with disabilities and really committed himself thoroughly to changing the whole way people with mental disabilities are treated.

I still think doesn't get enough credit, not for inventing everything, but for what he got done. We have very little that’s essential to the country that wasn’t invented in the 60s and 70s and that’s more a comment on the rest of us.

I’d like to think of a good answer because I do believe we need to celebrate the people who set the mark and moved things along and Jean Vanier is often one who doesn’t get noticed.

"He's Albertan By Choice, Now He's Running for Premier"

It's no promiscuous, but this one could be toping the charts before too long.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Calling All Bloggers

I'm hoping to jazz up my Race for Stornoway page for the convention. Among the information I'll be adding is a list of all bloggers who plan to be blogging from Montreal. So if you'll be at the convention next week and posting frequent blog updates, drop me an e-mail or post in the comments and I'll be sure to add a link to your site on that page.

One on One with GK - part 1

Previous Interviews
Michael Ignatieff
Ken Dryden
Scott Brison
Carolyn Bennett
Maurizio Bevilacqua
Stephane Dion
Martha Hall Findlay

My path crossed with Gerard’s on mid-term election night when he was in Edmonton and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for a blog interview. I think I ended up doing this at about 2 am his time on a day he was coming off four hours sleep, but he still managed to spit out very coherent and complete answers to my questions. I’ll post the first half of the interview on the Liberal Party in Alberta and Party renewal today and post the second half tomorrow. I’ll let the answers speak for themselves because any other “thoughts” I add are just going to sound like cheerleading.

1. With the Income Trust flip-flop, there’s a lot in the news about politicians breaking their promises. So I’m going to ask you to make a solemn vow to Canadians. Given Bob Rae’s visit to the Rick Mercer report and Scott Brison’s calendar pose, can you promise Canadians that, if elected Liberal Leader, they will not have to see you naked at all?

[laugh] "Iron clad guarantee. I like to be original and whatever you see, it won’t be that."

2. As an Alberta Liberal, I’m curious about your involvement with the party when you were living here. Were you active with the Liberals then?

"I was involved in both the provincial party and the federal party. I got involved around 1979 with the U of A Liberals. I also campaigned in the provincial elections – one year in Edmonton Centre I helped a proff at U of A, Brian McCulture run; we had about three canvassers. My father ran in 1984 and I helped him when he ran in Churchill in northern Manitoba.

I was involved also in the mayoralty campaigns of Lawrence Decore [ed note: who went on to become Alberta Liberal Party Leader]. It was nice to work on his campaigns because we got to win those. In 1986 the Liberals tried to get me to run but I was 26 and I was pretty implicated with the food bank. But I did help out on Bettie Hewes campaign in Edmonton Gold Bar and, without trying to, the food bank became a big political issue. A headline in the Journal one day was that the foodbank use showed that the Getty government was out of touch. Getty lost 16 seats that election and the Liberals only picked up four of them but it was still a breakthrough for the party at that time.

I also attended federal conventions and in 1984 I was a delegate for the leadership convention for Don Johnson. We surprised the Chretien and Turner people by winning the Red Deer provincial youth meeting."

3. On that vein, what do you think the Liberal Party needs to do in order to have a breakthrough in the West and, in particular, in Alberta?

"I think it’s a touchstone for whether we’re serious about success. We have to become a truly national party and that means what we have to do is lift the stigma of being a federal Liberal in Alberta. To do that, we need a federal Liberal Party which is equally imbedded in all regions of the country. And that’s still a bit of a stretch for the party.

It’s going to take a political shift to acknowledge what’s already happened economically. It’s what needs to happen for the functionality of the country. We cannot function when political parties have regional disparities which exacerbate our ability to find consensus and forge a common direction for the country.

Obviously some places like southern Alberta are the acid test for whether we’re really going to make progress. That’s obviously one of the more challenging parts of the country but I do think we can see gains in the short to medium term in Northern Alberta and other parts of the West. How we do that is by becoming a different party. We keep the same values but we work hard to acknowledge that we have to start building a consensus here. That’s why I’m emphasizing policies which resonate well with Alberta; The enterprise Liberalism I’ve been talking about, a results oriented approach to government - I think this is one of the reasons I have support in BC and Alberta.

I’m hoping to make that part of the mandate I get from the party. We need to have Western ideas and policy as a base, not just as an add on. We need to invest some of our political capital here if we’re going to get some return.

We’ve got a chance not just for the so called breakthrough but also for overall acceptance. I’m not looking to just double our seats from the historical one to two. I’m looking for general acceptance from Albertans. And I want to provoke Albertans and ask them why they don’t have any choice – they should have choice. Why aren’t they significant enough like other provinces that have influence in more than one major party. I understand that we have to set the table and we have to show the respect for Albertans that sometimes seems to be lacking. I say that not defensively at all – I don’t believe there’s anything inherently about the Liberal Party that can’t do this but it does require an attitude shift. We then make some concrete actions about how we compose ourselves, where the leader spends his time, what we do in terms of policy and how we spend our time on the ground – I think that’s how we get back. There’s no other way to lift the yolk – it’s like carrying a 180 pound person on your back when you go door to door; It’s been a generation now and it’s time for the country’s sake to have that lifted.

It’s also good for Liberals. We can’t spot the Conservatives 100 seats every time we go into an election. The dynamics of the country have changed and we need to change to."

4. You’ve talked a lot about the need for party renewal. What specifically does party renewal mean to you?

"I think it’s pretty broad based. The party’s doing an initiative that a lot of people like but I’m not sure it’s about renewal. Renewal is about doing structural change to make the party an open party. And that means we have an accountability that starts with the leader. I don’t wish to see a leader with artificial constraints but there needs to be an arrangement which says from time to time the membership and MPs will be able to react, put a veto, have an oversight on what the leader does. I’m going to be putting forward some of those specifics in the next short while.

We have to ask ourselves a question: Are we a club or are we a political organization open to all Canadians? To qualify for the later we simply have to take down some of the old outlook. Some of it is rooted in the fact that it’s too easy for a leader’s office in Ottawa to run all aspects of the party. Even with the best of intentions , they don’t have to go through the consultations and consensus building that’s necessary to engage all regions of the country and a diversity of views. If the leader and the leader’s office don’t make some of those action steps, I can’t see how we’re going to galvanize our own members, never mind the people who we want to see step through the door.

I see the party being a party that uses it’s members all the time, not just for elections. The information technology permits it and the running of government requires it. In government, we need policy and ideas from the grass roots. In opposition, we need to take on the Tories in every riding they have and we need to galvanize the grass roots to do that. If more people feel they’re engaged, they’re more likely to donate the time and money we need to be a credible political force. The fundamental difference is having Liberals who are engaged.

I think we need to take an ethical stand on how things are done in the future. We’re going to need an agreement in the future on how certain things are done. I’m looking forward to the public getting a sense that the Liberal Party is setting the standard for how politics get done. We can’t be a club – we need to be an open process, or people won’t stay in the party. It’s what people expect.

Also, we need to get to the goal of 50% women, I will appoint 50% women to Cabinet within a few elections so I need people to send me a good supply."

As an Aside... Former Ignatieff organizer and Scarborough Guildwood Riding President John Laforet has endorsed Kennedy.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

News Desk

I tend to think the next two weeks will be rather Liberal leadership intensive on this blog (stay turned for interviews with Kennedy and Rae to be posted early this week) so here are a few (mostly) non-leadership related stories to consider on Grey Cup Sunday.

1. OJ Simpson has less shame than anyone else alive. In unrelated news, Peter MacKay is set to release a new book "If I called her dog, here's how I really phrased it".

2. I'm surprised at the backlash the Howard Dean speech has been getting in Liberal circles. Considering everything Dean has done for grass roots party reform, fundraising, using technology, and the Democratic Party as a whole, he seems like the perfect person to talk to Liberals at this time when the party needs to adapt to the 21st Century and renew itself.

3. Trent Lott is the new Minority Whip in the Senate. I hope he understands that's not a literal title.

4. Via Daimnation:

Number of debut CDs sold by Kevin Federline: 3,000
Number of debut CDs sold by William Hung: 200,000

5. Ok, Ok, I lied - here's some Liberal leadership news for the day. Two profiles on Iggy here and here, Coyne on Rae, and, my personal favourite, Paul Jackson calls Gerard Kennedy "a radical left-wing activist" because he ran a foodbank.

6. Prediction: Als 28, Lions 25

Friday, November 17, 2006

Great Moments in Prognostication

With the Liberal convention under two weeks away, I thought it might be fun to take a stroll down memory lane...

July 2005: Calgary Grit projects a race anyone of four people could win...those four people being Manley, McKenna, Brison, and Cauchon. Also declares that Michael Ignatieff's experience in Cabinet will make it or break it for him...

January 2006: Andrew Coyne polls his readers. 47% think Frank McKenna will win, 59% of Tories want Belinda Stronach to win, and the field is split on who the Liberals should elect.

January 2006: Vijay Sappani projects the convention right down to the final ballot. Volpe, Cauchon, McKenna, and Ignatieff are the final four standing.

January 2006: The Draft Paul Hellyer Campaign gathers steam and momentum.

January 2006: Jason Cherniak declares that Stephane Dion isn't emotive enough to become leader.

January 2006: Paul Wells has shocking news on who isn't running.

February 2006: Paul Wells inadvertently kills the Draft Dion blog.

February 2006: It's widely reported that Gerard Kennedy will not run for Liberal leadership.

February 2006: SES declares Ken Dryden is the candidate Ontarians most want to win.

February 2006: Calgary Grit takes a look at some other long-shot candidates.

April 2006: Clifford Blais, Ruby Dhalla, and Paul Zed are among the "declared candidates" to speak at the LPCA leadership forum in Edmonton.

April 2006: The Globe & Mail lists Scott Brison and Ken Dryden as being in the "top tier" of six Liberal candidates capable of winning.

July 2006: The Volpe campaign claims to have signed up more Liberals than anyone else and the Globe reports that Volpe leads in Quebec. Jimmy K claims 35,000 to 37,000 new sign ups which puts Volpe "pretty well in the lead".

September 2006: A Frodo poll shows that the overwhelming choice of Canadians is...Ken Dryden.

September 2006: The Strategic Council polls Liberals and projects Super Wekend with Michael Ignatieff at 19% and Gerard Kennedy at 9%.

The moral of the story? It's been a hugely unpredictable race and it's going to stay unpredictable right down to the final ballot on December 2nd.


This kind of makes me like Jim Dinning a bit more:

Ted Morton and Gary McPherson are the new poster boys of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The advocacy organization awarded the pair of would-be premiers top marks - a "B" and a "B-" respectively - for responses to a questionnaire on tax cuts, transparency and health-care privatization.

At the other end of the spectrum, Jim Dinning and Ed Stelmach both got a "D+" largely for refusing to commit to tax cuts or reforms and for refusing to support an increase in private health care delivery.

One Member, One Vote, Many Questions

I’ll be voting in favour of the Red Ribbon Report but I’m still on the fence about the vote on a new leadership system. The choice will be between the current delegated convention and the Tory system of a weighted one member one vote where every riding gets 100 points. To me, this is far better than a “pure” one member, one vote because it forces leadership candidates to venture beyond Toronto to find support. One great thing about this race is the number of Liberal events which have happened in Alberta and, in particular, rural Alberta. Crowfoot probably hasn’t seen a Liberal MP venture there since Jack Horner sat in the house, but it saw a handful of them this summer. Lethbridge got eight or nine candidates onto local TV to help raise awareness of the party.

Clearly, weighted one member, one vote (or, NAMBLA) would be more democratic than the current system. However, the cost would be the loss of the excitement associated with leadership conventions (“Paul! Paul! Paul! Paul!”). While many see WOMOV as a cure all panacea, it’s also important to remember that WOMOV wouldn’t end the practice of instant Liberals or bulk buying of memberships – if anything it increases them since it’s rarely the instant Liberals who actually go to these conventions as delegates.

On the flip side, the cost to attend a convention is incredibly high so we’re implicitly giving the largest say to those with money under the current system. And the bizarre quota systems at riding levels and club delegates are incredibly complicated, leading to some odd results when you examine the DEMs closely.

Since there won’t be a pro or anti one member one vote hospitality suite to sway me, I think I’m going to simply see how the convention plays out before making my decision. If the leadership convention itself seems to be benefiting the party, I think I’ll vote for the status quo under the assumption that some fine tuning will occur to the current procedure. Besides, I’m working under the assumption that we’re electing a leader for the next decade so there will be plenty of opportunities to alter the system over that time.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Daily Canuck

I did a guest blog on the Daily Canuck today where I futily tried to sum up the convention, the Kennedy campaign, and why delegates should vote for Gerard in 150 words.

In other news, I'm up for Best Blog and Best Progressive Blog in the Canadian Blog Awards this year. While it does seem a little NDPish to stack an Internet poll, feel free to go and vote if you're at work and looking to kill a minute.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Seeing Red

I had a pair of Liberals e-mail me today asking for my take on the Red Ribbon Report amendments so I figured this would be a good time to post my thoughts on the proposed constitutional changes (as the sound of hundreds of readers who could care less about the Liberal Party constitution leaving this site sounds in the background). I had the chance to chat with Steve McKinnon about this last week and I must say I'm very supportive of the changes which are being proposed so I'm going to waste some virtual space talking about why I think passing this report at the convention is essential - even though I know most readers would rather read a few Volpe jokes instead.


The authors of the Red Ribbon Report (which I'm just going to refer to as the RRR for the rest of this post to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome) clearly understand the biggest obstacles facing this party. The party has a bloated executive after years of appeasing every special interest group by giving them a seat at the table (coming soon "Southern Alberta blogging representatives"... one for each of the youth, seniors, women's, and aboriginal commissions). And, to put matters bluntly, the Tories are kicking our ass when it comes to fundraising. Say what you will about their tactics, but their "keep the gays from marrying - donate 50$ today" letters have been remarkably successful. They say the first step to a cure is admitting you have a problem, and the Red Ribbon Committee was willing to do that. In fact, the report is brutally honest about everything from the facade of a policy process to PTAs "perverse" abuse of membership rules to help leadership candidates. For that, the authors of this report, deserve to be congratulated - they could have sugar coated things but recognized that the only way to solve the problem would be with a complete and honest examination of the party.

National Membership

I've been saying for eons that it's an absolute joke that this party doesn't have a national membership form. 1$ memberships, 20$ memberships, family memberships, out of riding memberships, lifetime memberships...having fifty million different house rules may be fine when it comes to playing Crazy Eights, but it just doesn't work for a national party.

The recommendations on National Membership are probably the RRR's most crucial. The report calls for a single national membership with a central office handling the administrative aspects of it. There will be one national fee and one set of national rules. This will save money and allow the central party to communicate directly to it's members.

PTAs (Provincial and Territorial Associations AKA Acronyms 'R' Us: LPCA, LPCO, PLCQ, SLA...)

The RRR resisted the urge to get rid of the provincial associations but by offloading many of their administrative responsibilities to the national party, this should hopefully let the PTAs devote their limited resources to election readiness, membership recruitment, and policy development.

Governance Structure (So long to the Albino Maritime Fiddlers Commission)

The Red Ribbon committee was quick recognize that it's not simply a case of trimming fat on the National Executive; liposuction is required. As a result, the bloated 60 member executive has been cut in half and a nine person management committee will be established. This will save money and, more importantly, actually allow decisions to be made. I've never been to a National Executive meeting but I can only imagine how difficult it is to get anything done when 80 people are sitting around a table.

There's also a proposal for a Council of Presidents (sounds like something in a futuristic sci-fi movie) which I have mixed feelings on. If one of the beefs with the old National Executive is that flying 60 people to Ottawa once a year was too expensive, I'm not sure flying 308 people to Ottawa once a year is going to help fix this problem. I know the idea is to try and revitalize the riding associations but I'd much rather see the council be run over the Internet and maybe have information sessions in person for the riding Presidents when the provincial associations have their own conventions. It's my understanding that the membership rules and fees will be decided upon by the Council which will be a good thing since it will diffuse some of the power away from the smaller National Executive.


The RRR proposes to establish a standing committee on policy and platform development and there seems to be a general thrust towards more policy development. The real mystery here is how it will translate from theory into practice and, unlike the other proposed changes, that's hard to predict. The leader will still be able to veto policy but he (or she!) will be forced to give a reason for his (or her!) decision ("guys, we can't run on a pro pot and hookers platform if we want to win"). I think the future of the policy process will depend on the individuals who are elected to sit on this new policy committee.


The RRR proposes a few changes to conventions. Firstly, the number of delegates eligible to go from each riding will increase to 20 (6 youth, 2 aboriginal, 2 senior, half female) which I don't have a major problem with since it lets more people go to conventions. Interestingly there will only be a leadership review vote after the party loses an election, clearly an implicit condemnation of the Martin tactics of the past decade.


The vote on a new leadership selection process will be separate and, therefore, it deserves a separate post.