Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bob Rae Launch

First off, full marks to team Rae and the always-brilliant Braeden Caley for organizing Bob Rae’s blogger conference call today. It’s nice to see candidates reaching out to the blogging community and taking the time to talk to bloggers – even those of us who have already chosen to support other candidates. Here’s my quick and dirty recap of the call:


Bob’s Record

I suspect Bob’s going to have to talk about this topic once or twice over the course of the campaign so you really don’t need me to rehash his answer here. I will, however, come to his defence regarding the poll that was leaked today – it was one question taken out of context from the full survey…for all we know the question before it was “who is best to handle an economic crisis?” and Bob finished first. I doubt that, but no one should think much about this poll one way or the other and the 20% who choose him as the worst to deal with the economy is hardly damning.


How can we make the party competitive in Western Canada?

This question, asked by my friend Avnish, is my standard question for leadership contenders, and answers to it have helped me decide the last two candidates I’ve chosen to support for Liberal leadership.

Bob said that the leader and MPs need to be physically present in all ridings, and that they must take the time to listen to local concerns. He was a bit shorter on specifics than I would have liked but I was impressed that he admitted the party needed more than “a fresh coat of paint” and that “a lot of work needs to be done”. Anyone who thinks there’s a quick fix out there, is going to be solely disappointed in a year or two.


Making the Party Competitive in Rural Ridings

Jeff Jedras asked specifically about a part of the $1.90 vote subsidy going directly to the ridings and Bob agreed it was a good idea. Personally, I think it’s a horrible idea, since it would mean a lot of money going to places like York Centre, which do not need it, and very little going to places like Calgary Southeast, which do.

I do however agree with Bob that there are “too many layers” in the Liberal Party and that the “title-itis” epidemic has spread out of control. Then again, I might just be bitter that I was passed over for the position of Ontario blogging liaison on Dominic LeBlanc’s Near Eastern and South Caucasus Affairs foreign policy committee.


Fundraising? What gives?

This was my question – I specifically wanted to know what the leader could do to help. He agreed that the leader needs to take an active “hands-on” interest in this issue, and that there should be issue-based fundraising directly related to the goings-on in the House of Commons.


Grassroots Engagement

Bob talked about using technology to connect with Liberals and lamented that there’s a lot of frustration among the grass roots because policy resolutions often “don’t lead anywhere”. Agreed.

Interestingly, he came out against Ignatieff’s idea to hold a Kingston-style conference – he believes consultation needs to be more broad based and that the Kingston/Port Hope model has become antiquated in the 21st Century information age.


One Member One Vote?

He’s in favour.


RIP Green Shift?

Like the other two candidates, he agrees we can’t go back there. If I could editorialize for a second here, I do hope that everyone who voted Green for environmental reasons realizes that the Liberal implosion last campaign means that no major party is going to touch carbon taxes for the next 20 years. I'm just sayin'...


Surprisingly, no one brought up Bob’s idea for the LPC to offer free memberships - I could have, but I'm genuinely undecided on this one. While I do like the open voter registration system used in the US, I’m really unsure about how this play out in practice in the context of the Canadian system. I’d be curious to hear what others think.


Also offering recaps - Tribe, the other Danielle, Bowie,

Labels:

18 Comments:

  • We had free memberships in NL and in NB until very recently. A disaster. A complete unmitigated disaster. hudreds of thousands of names on lists that were so out of date as to be useless. There has to be at least a principle of cost recovery for the cost of maintaining the lists and holding nomination meetings, etc.

    By Blogger Mark, at 6:27 PM  

  • I think it’s a horrible idea, since it would mean a lot of money going to places like York Centre, which do not need it, and very little going to places like Calgary Southeast, which do

    If I can defend my idea for a moment, which I was pleased to hear Bob supported. On the issue of rich riding associations, certainly we could build in something where they need to tithe back, or revenue share -- the Conservatives do this.

    And as for ridings like CSE getting a little, well, they don't get anything now, so a little is more than nothing.

    Really, though, what this is about is motivating and energizing "no-hope" rural ridings, like the one I came up through in BC

    In these ridings its tough to get people motivated knowing there's no way in hell we'll ever elect a Liberal. But, if the riding had a direct fiscal stake in the result (a fixed % cut of the per vote subsidy, which naturally goes up the more people vote Liberal in the riding) then you're giving them a direct motivation to push harder to get out more votes.

    There are thousands of votes we could get in rural ridings across Canada (either Liberals staying home or soft NDP, Green or Cons), and while it's not enough to flip the riding, every vote does also mean more money for LPC central. So, in effect, any $ central loses by cutting in the ridings for, say, 10% or 20% of the subsidy, would likely be made up by the fact the pie would be made larger by the greater riding-level effort. So it would likely be revenue neutral for LPC, if not a profit.

    And besides motivating no-hope ridings, the money would also enable ridings to do more organizing and outreach between campaigns, which will mean better results next election, snowballing each time, until some of these no-hopes may eventually come into play.

    So it's not so much about fund raising really, but about grassroots engagement.

    By Blogger A BCer in Toronto, at 6:31 PM  

  • "Interestingly, he came out against Ignatieff’s idea to hold a Kingston-style conference"

    Of course he would. It plays into the script that Ignatieff is an out of touch elitist who'll make secretive decisions in the backrooms and ignore the grassroots. Kind of like Harper.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:55 PM  

  • I too think that we need incentive to earn cash from votes in tough ridings. The Conservatives have been building up votes and funding in "anti-Conservative" ridings for a long time. You'll see their very vehement supporters in downtown TO as much as downtown Calgary...

    By Blogger WesternGrit, at 7:02 PM  

  • How about.. first 100 memberships in any riding are free.
    Once there are over 100 members, price goes up to $5...
    then rises again as the numbers go up

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:22 PM  

  • The "free membership" idea strikes me as not a bad idea so much as a weird one. I mean, is there really anybody who doesn't join a political party because they can't afford the membership fee? I'm a member of a party that has significantly more unemployed and underemployed members than the Liberals do, and I've never heard anyone express that.

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 12:46 AM  

  • I thought we had a lid on "Danielle?"

    By Blogger James Bowie, at 6:03 AM  

  • ABC - well, I like the idea of giving people a stake in it, but I don't see how you do it without punishing the weaker ridings. A lazy riding that nets 30% of the vote would still get three times as much as a tough as nails campaign in Crowfoot that doubles the Liberal vote from 5% to 10%.

    Maybe you make the cash subsidy a "consolation prize" so it only goes to ridings we lose. Or some variation on that...

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:30 AM  

  • I wouldn't say that no party is going to touch carbon taxes. Just that no party is going to campaign on them. It's hardly unknown for a government to do something that the party campaigned against.

    By Blogger Reality Bites, at 9:51 AM  

  • Don't blame the voters. Maybe Dion shouldn't have introduced his carbon tax plan until he knew how to explain it better. And maybe he should have built up some credibility on environmental issues before becoming its advocate.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 12:02 PM  

  • I suppose some variation of carbon taxes could be introduced from the comfy confines of a majority government.

    Of course, a cap-and-trade pretty much IS a carbon tax, by another name, so maybe that idea still has some life to it.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:02 PM  

  • Decentralized fundraising/spending sounds like a terrible idea. Campaign is an absolutely horrible idea.

    "In these ridings its tough to get people motivated knowing there's no way in hell we'll ever elect a Liberal. But, if the riding had a direct fiscal stake in the result (a fixed % cut of the per vote subsidy, which naturally goes up the more people vote Liberal in the riding) then you're giving them a direct motivation to push harder to get out more votes."

    The logic seems to be about "motivating" no hope ridings so that it pays if they get more votes. Here is why that is a dumb idea:

    1. Going after no-hope ridings may make some sense - who would have guessed that the Tories could win 10 seats in Quebec (in 2006)? Who would have guessed Obama would win in Indiana? The problem with this approach is that it gives some small amount of money spread evenly across a large number of no-hope ridings, instead of concentrating them. This is dumb as a bag of Stephen Ledrews because it handicaps any sort of cohesive theme by which one might capture those ridings. What is more likely to work? Spending 10,000 in 50 Crowfoots or spending 50,000 in 10 Edmonton-Strathconas? By concentrating resources regionally, moreover, the campaign organizations of neighbouring ridings can help each other out a lot more than if you just spread some small amount of money really thin.

    2. It ties down some amount of spending in ridings where the Liberals will win anyways. Yes, you can cap that money, or set up some sort of tithing system, but no matter what happens you are locking down money in guaranteed slam dunks.

    3. It increases the risk of in-and-out by incompetence. Canadian elections have strict spending limits, which could easily be surpassed by accident if you have 308 ridings spending large amounts of money.

    The low-down:
    In a PR system, something like this MIGHT work (I still think economies of scale mean that spending less than 40,000 in a no-hope riding will have no impact). We don't live in such a system. The Liberals need to enable their party leadership to target ridings effectively. A proposal like this can only survive during a leadership race where the mandarins of Medicine Hat suddenly matter.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 6:08 PM  

  • I am not sure what I meant when I wrote:
    "Campaign is an absolutely horrible idea. "

    Leaders don't edit blog comments.
    Leaders get things done.
    Hosertohoosier IS a leader.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 6:10 PM  

  • Hey Hans Vollman, your theory has some merit:"Maybe Dion shouldn't have introduced his carbon tax plan until he knew how to explain it better. And maybe he should have built up some credibility on environmental issues before becoming its advocate."

    However, that should equally apply to Harper and economics. You know, the field where he thought a degree in would help him avoid having to work in it? He must have a kitten called 'Deficit' and another called 'Screwed'?

    By Blogger burlivespipe, at 2:29 AM  

  • Even some US Republican Senators will say in private that they understand a carbon tax is just a more efficient means of cap and trade, which would be better for the economy and taxpayers, but it simply will not sell. With much regret, I have come to that conclusion as well.

    The EU was not able to sell it, the US and Canada as well, and the countries that did (like Sweden, Norway, etc) have very different politics. Fortunately, experts have figured out ways to make a cap and trade more like a carbon tax so that it only costs about twice as much (which may sound like a lot, but it is in fact a big improvement over earlier cap and trade models). Ultimately everyone will pay more to get the job done, but at least we can still get the job done.

    Let us hope that when North American does establish cap and trade, which is a whole new complex market, that it doesn't fall prey to the same greed and manipulation that other markets have, leaving doom and gloom in its wake. Incidently, a carbon tax would have avoided that threat all together - one of its other advantages. But why go there? We have to deal with reality.

    By Anonymous catherine, at 10:20 AM  

  • What I think is critical about a carbon tax, cap and trade, or any macro-environmental policy, is that you need to remember that 80% of our trade is with the US. It is easy for say, France, to get away with making its exports more expensive if all of its neighbours do the same (and Canada's unilateral effect on C02 emissions is not large enough to warrant going it alone).

    Just like with the acid rain treaty, the answer is bilateral, not multilateral (possibly trilateral, if you want to include Mexico). The US has a president and congress that supports cap and trade - lets make it a North American-wide cap and trade. By negotiating a deal Obama can accept you will not only reduce emissions far more than you ever would with an extremely strict carbon tax, but you will also eliminate an export penalty that would have further crippled Ontario car manufacturers, BC pulp mills and Quebec aerospace firms (and without the idiotic and possibly illegal levying of tariffs on countries that don't price carbon).

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 1:25 PM  

  • Actually, there is no problem linking a carbon tax with others cap and trade and the US Congressional Budget Office recommended that. However, Canada can also link into the US cap and trade.

    From Congressional Budget Office: A tax on emissions would be the most efficient incentive-based option for reducing emissions and could be relatively easy to implement. If it was coordinated among major emitting countries, it would help minimize the cost of achieving a global target for emissions by providing consistent incentives for reducing emissions around the world. If other major nations used cap-and-trade programs rather than taxes on emissions, a U.S. tax could still provide roughly comparable incentives for emission reductions if the tax rate each year was set to equal the expected price of allowances under those programs.

    By Anonymous catherine, at 3:53 PM  

  • He was a bit shorter on specifics than I would have liked but I was impressed that he admitted the party needed more than “a fresh coat of paint” and that “a lot of work needs to be done”. Anyone who thinks there’s a quick fix out there, is going to be solely disappointed in a year or two.

    Who's suggesting the party just needs a fresh coat of paint? Is anyone? Was anyone saying it last time? Unless you're running for leadership of the incumbent party, you're going to say there's work to be done (and, as Paul Martin showed, sometimes you'll even run against the government when you are the government, though that tends not to work as well)...saying "A lot of word needs to be done", and then not offering any specifics is pretty much the definition of lip service.

    By Anonymous matthew, at 5:53 PM  

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