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Election Post-Mortem: The Greens

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Featured Posts, Federal Politics | Leave a comment


The Greens got 360,000 more votes in 2008 than on Monday – in fact, they lost a larger proportion of their vote than either the Liberals or the Bloc.

And yet, the 2011 election will go down as a historic night for the Green Party of Canada, having elected its first MP.

Making sense of the election that was for the Greens is a lot easier than for the other parties. In short, the Greens gave up on the national campaign and went all in on Saanich. They dragged every volunteer they could find to the riding, polled it heavily, and May spent every waking moment this election tricycling through the riding, mostly ignoring the national campaign. They were rewarded with a seat on Monday, validating her decision to run there. As I said at the time, Saanich was likely the best riding for May and, at the very least, it was a better call than her ill-advised and ill-fated decision to take on Peter MacKay in Central Nova.

So what should the Greens watch out for as they drive their one-seat hybrid down the road to relevancy?

Having a seat in the House will make a huge difference. Even in a majority parliament, it will give May an outlet to broadcast her message. The challenge for her will be finding the right message. The environment has faded as an issue in recent years, and despite May positioning the Greens as a party who rise above the petty attack that dominate Canadian politics, she has been rather sharp in her criticism of Harper in the past. Striking the right balance in the House will be a challenge.

So will be winning that second seat. The Greens were not over 20% anywhere else in the country, and only got their deposit back in 8 ridings.

Monday was certainly historic for the Greens, and they have every right to raise a glass of beet juice in celebration. Even though I’m not a fan of the party, May will bring a different perspective to Ottawa and will contribute more to the political dialogue than most backbench MPs. She is a welcome addition to the House of Commons.

However this was only the first step on the road to relevancy and there’s still a lot of work left for the Greens.

A Beginner’s Guide to Alberta Politics, or, "What the @$#! is going on in Alberta?"

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics, Featured Posts, Humour | 1 Comment

Like an oil reserve, Alberta politics tends to lie dormant for thousands of years, only to gush to the surface without warning. And when it does, it’s usually messy.

Like the last two weeks.

For those of you lucky enough to not follow Alberta politics, it must have all seemed rather perplexing. A caucus coup against a Premier coming off a landslide victory last election. The Premier and Finance Minister both resigning in the span of 48 hours…Only to be followed by the leader of the opposition less than a week later. Hell, it was perplexing to even Alberta’s most rabid political junkies.

So, for those of you in other parts of the country, I do my best here to summarize last week’s political geyser with this helpful FAQ.

Last time I checked Ralph Klein was Premier. Who’s this new guy?

Ed Stelmach won the PC leadership on the same day and in the same way Stephane Dion won the LPC leadership. Ted Morton and Jim Dinning had spent all of 2006 hitting each other over the head, so Ed Stelmach took his 15% of vote and came up the middle as the compromise candidate. PC members were so sick of the frontrunners that they didn’t worry much about Ed’s vision (or lack thereof) or his ability to communicate with other human beings (or lack thereof).

After that, the Calgary media ripped him apart for a year, Dave Bronconnier went all Danny Williams on his ass, and voters humbled Ed in a by election.

Not that it mattered. Alberta being Alberta, and Ed being a Conservative, he won a staggering 72 of 83 seats, 10 more than Ralph Klein left him. Maybe seeing that a guy like Ed could be Premier made voters feel better about themselves. Maybe he won on the strength of the insomniac vote, thankful for the cure his speeches offered them. For whatever reason, Ed appealed to voters and Ed won. It’s hard to argue with success.

Unless, of course, you’re the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.

So why do they want him out?

There are two competing theories. One is that the PCs are scared stiff of the Wildrose Alliance, a party with only 5% of the seats in the legislature but 80% of the media coverage in the province. Even though the Wildrose Alliance has never won a seat in a general election, Alberta has a history of new parties wiping out dynasties in the blink of an eye. A lot of PC MLAs now gaze longingly at the great right hope, Ted Morton, to ensure the dynasty lives on.

The other theory is that the PCs have been in power for so long they don’t worry about the things most other parties worry about – like winning elections. Instead, it’s all about internal power struggles. It’s no secret the PC power brokers don’t like Ed Stelmach. They’ve been waiting to drop him since he won and were the only people more disappointed with the last election results than Alberta Liberals. So when they saw an opening to defenestrate Ed, they didn’t hesitate.

Regardless of the reason, Ed was pressured to quit. His Finance Minister and heir apparent, Ted Morton, said he’d quit if Stelmach made him deliver the budget. (I’m not sure if Morton really understood the responsibilities of being Finance Minister when he took the job)

Jean Chretien or Ralph Klein would have snarled, fired Morton, and fought on. Ed quit.

Woah, woah, easy there partner. Wildrose what? Who are these guys?

The Alberta Alliance was a protest party that won 1 seat in the 2004 election. They merged with the Wildrose Party (another protest party) before the 2008 election to avoid the vote split…and won 0 seats.

Then, in 2009, things changed. The PCs tabled Alberta’s first deficit in 15 years. People began talking about the Wildrose Alliance. When Danielle Smith was named leader, they really started talking about the Wildrose Alliance.

Although a political rookie, Smith is smart, well spoken, and media savvy. Of course, it’s hard for her not to impress when compared to the current crop of provincial party leaders – even the Oilers would look good lined up against a Bantam hockey team.

So the Alliance won the Calgary Glenmore by election. They showed they were different from the PCs by adding a PC cast-off and a pair of disgruntled PC back benchers. There may only be 4 Wildrose MLAs, but they have the 67-member PC caucus scared stiff.

In their current form, it’s easiest to think of the Wildrose Alliance as an Alberta version of the ADQ – a charismatic leader in charge of an untested party with some very questionable policies. Luckily for Danielle Smith, the only policy the media seem interested in asking her about is her policy of “being awesome”. She might be in trouble if they start asking about Health Care cuts.

A right wing vote split must be manna from heaven for the Liberals. Are they poised to form government?

Errr…

I mean, running against a pair of far right wingers like Danielle Smith and Ted Morton – that’s a political double rainbow if I ever saw one. It seems impossible to mess up a gift like that.

Ummm…

So, yeah, with everything coming up roses, why did their leader quit?

Basically, the same reason Ed did. People got spooked by lackluster poll results, and the leader couldn’t control an unruly caucus.

And the Alberta Party, what’s their deal?

The Alberta Party came into existence last year when progressives, worried that a right-wing vote split might cause them to stumble into power for the first time in 90 years, decided to found another party.

Alberta Party turn ons include “listening” and “Twitter”, and their turn offs include “politics as usual” and “explaining what politics as usual actually means”.

They are made up of a loose coalition of Albertans disillusioned with the province’s major parties and disgruntled Liberals who feel “Do you support Alberta?” is an easier door knocking pitch than “So how about that NEP, eh?“.

They’re still in the embryonic stage but in Alberta we believe political life begins at conception or, at the very least, your first floor crossing. And they got their first last week – Dave Taylor, a former Liberal MLA, who had grown disenchanted with the Alberta Liberals’ policy of not picking Dave Taylor as their leader.

They are very much a wild card at this point.

And what about the NDP? Where do they figure into the current political landscape?

Good question.

And the Greens?

They were desanctioned after the last election, so they’re basically about as relevant now as the NDP.

Desanctioned?

That’s what happens when you try to stick up for the environment in Alberta.

There is, however, a movement afoot to create a new Green Party, called Vision 2012. Because after all, the one thing missing in Alberta is a 4th opposition party to left of the PCs. At the rate we’re going, there will be more parties than voters by the next election.

So what happens now?

Ted Morton will run for the PC leadership. Morton, who brought in Alberta’s first deficit budget in a generation, is expected to position himself as the only candidate fiscally conservative enough to stop the Wildrose Alliance. Assuming he avoids the fate of every other front runner in every leadership contest fought in Canada and around the world over the past decade, he will win.

And when is the next election again? I assume that Alberta, being Canada’s bastion of democratic reform, has fixed election dates, right?

Ha ha ha. Good one.

Expect an election roughly 60 days after the first poll of 2012 which shows the PCs more than 12 points up on the Wildrosers.

And who will win?

The smart money is on the PC dynasty surviving into its 40s, but for the first time since 1993 we may actually have to wait until the election before calling it. Hell, if we’re lucky, the campaign might actually be worth watching.

MEET THE KEY PLAYERS


Ed Stelmach enjoys a lighter moment at his farewell news conference


Danielle Smith not only walks on water, she runs on it!


Ted Morton is likely to be Alberta’s next Premier. He’s a University professor who thinks he’s a cowboy.


David Swann is the most genuine and honest human being on the face of the earth. So, of course, he was doomed from the start.


This is NDP leader Brian Mason. You will never see or hear about him again as long as you live, so don’t feel bad if you forget his name. Hell, it even happens to the Premier sometimes.

Reports are Dave Taylor will simply create “The Dave Taylor Party” should he not win the Alberta Party leadership.

Swann Song

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics, Featured Posts | Leave a comment


There used to be a time when you could tune out Alberta politics for a decade and not miss much. Now, every day brings a new bombshell.

The latest comes from the Alberta Liberals, with David Swann resigning before even fighting his first election as leader. Although the news is surprising, it likely shouldn’t be – since taking over, Swann has faced internal party disent and defections. With the ALP down in the polls and unable to gain traction in the press, the pressure built. Something had to give.

While the Liberals may fare better under a new leader, Swann’s departure is still disheartening. After all, David Swann is exactly the type of person politics needs more of. A lifelong Albertan, Swann has spent his life trying to make the world a better place – he worked at a mission hospital in Africa for three years and has been a passionate advocate on issues like Darfur and the environment. It was the latter that drove him into politics in 2002, when the government fired him from his position as an Alberta Health Office for speaking out in favour of the Kyoto Accord.

I first met David Swann shortly after that. It was at a backyard Liberal barbecue, and we talked about his motivations for entering politics. Although soft spoken, Swann showed passion and clearly wanted to make a difference. In all my years in politics, I’ve never met anyone as genuine as Dr. Swann.

And I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I door knocked for him a few times in the 2004 election and was amazed by his ability to bring in supporters and volunteers from outside the party. They certainly weren’t there for the campaign food, which was usually some variant of an organic humus-like substance. No, these people saw a candidate who cared about the issues they cared about, and wanted to help him make a difference. So did voters – he won the riding in a 3,000 vote landslide. As a Liberal in Calgary, that’s no small miracle.

In 2008, Swann tossed his hat into the ring for the Alberta Liberal leadership. Once again, he did what David Swann does best – he got people who don’t care to care. He was up against a slick sound byte machine by the name of Dave Taylor. Taylor had an exceptionally well run campaign and led in media coverage and membership sales. But people who signed up for David Swann truly respected the man and believed in him – they voted, and Swann won. Score one for the “little guy”.

Sadly, from there things turned out the way they always seem to when people like David Swann become party leaders. The party turned on him. The media ignored him. Things fell apart. Although the situation is obviously different, it’s hard not to draw parallels with Ed Stelmach. Both Ed and David are honest, genuine men, in politics for all the right reasons – yet pundits, partisans, and politicos throw those descriptions around as if they were tragic flaws making them unsuitable to hold office.

When good people fail in politics, you can’t help feeling bad for them. But this wasn’t even a case of good people failing. All Ed Stelmach did was win 8 times as many seats as the second place party in his one election. All David Swann did was win convincingly in every election he ever ran in. Then as leader, he eliminated the ALP debt which had hung around the party’s neck like an albatross. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t have high hopes for Swann in the next election – but surely a man who made a habit of proving critics wrong deserved a chance.

Yes, when good people fail in politics, you can’t help feeling bad for them. But when good people do nothing but succeed and are still forced out of the game? You can’t help feeling bad about politics.

2010 Person of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

As 2010 winds down, it’s time to pick a Calgary Grit Person of the Year for the 7th consecutive year. The criteria is simple – a person who made an impact on the Canadian political scene in 2010 (ruling out obvious choices like the PM, or lame picks like “you“).

But this was a tough year, with no obvious choice once it became clear that I couldn’t contort the criteria to give the award to Sidney Crosby.

Federally, 2010 was about as dull, meaningless, and mundane as it gets. No election. No crisis. No bold policies. No leadership races. Wake me up when it’s 2011. If I had to pick a federal politician, I’d have to go with my buddy, Tony Clement. He was, after all, at the centre of the largest stories of the year – the Census, Potash, the G20 Summit. So convinced was I that Tony should be the Man of the Year that I sent him an application form – alas, he never filed it out, so I had to look elsewhere.

Now, the “political person of the year” doesn’t have to be a politician. Ivan Fellegi and Munir Sheikh could have been joint winners for turning the Census into the unlikeliest of issues. A wild card pick might have been the kids who set up the “anti-prorogation” Facebook group. But in both cases, Harper seems to have recovered and the probability of long term damage is low.

As always, interesting candidates can be found in the provincial arena. Shawn Graham signed then unsigned the NB Hydro deal and, in the process, signed away a promising career. Danny Williams called it a night. So did Gordon Campbell, though he would have been a more deserving candidate in 2008 for his carbon tax, or in 2009 for his re-election victory and subsequent HST announcement.

All good candidates, but none really define the year that was.

In my mind, 2010 was all about municipal politics. Some people think municipal politics don’t matter, but they must if people like Jim Watson, George Smitherman, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Maurizio Bevilacqua, and Inky Mark leave provincial and federal politics for a chance to run (and in some cases, lose) municipally.

The problem is, I can’t very well pick 100 mayors as my people of the year. And selecting Rob Ford is a bit too Toronto-centric for a blog with “Calgary” in the name. So, after much thought, here are my Men of the Year:

Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi

Of all the mayoral races in 2010, none were more fascinating, surprising, or memorable than these two. In a city overrun with “pinko cyclists”, a loud Ralph Klein clone from the suburbs drove away with it. In “redneck” Calgary, a Muslim Harvard graduate who teaches University and blogs about urban sprawl was the come from behind winner. Ford and Nenshi shattered stereotypes, prompting many to scratch their heads and wonder if we’d entered the world of bizarro politics.

Though the differences between Ford and Nenshi are obvious, their campaigns were quite similar when you get down it it. They both ran as anti-establishment outsiders. They both defined themselves early with a clear message and understandable policies. They both filled a void left open by overly cautious front runners. Yes, the kinds of people who voted for them may have been different, but a vote for Nenshi or a vote for Ford was a vote for change regardless of whether you were a commuter from Etobicoke or a student in downtown Calgary.

Beyond the immediate impact Ford and Nenshi will have on the 3.5 million Canadians they now represent is the effect their wins will have on the rest of the country. Is Ford’s win a dark omen for Dalton McGuinty or an opportunity? What does Nenshi’s victory in Calgary do to the already rocky world of Alberta provincial politics? What does this anti-establishment wave sweeping the country mean for Stephen Harper?

In addition to these questions, the lessons learned from these campaigns will last…well, at least until the next memorable election. There isn’t a politician in Canada who isn’t thinking about “the gravy train” right now. And there isn’t a campaign manager in Canada who hasn’t looked at Nenshi’s use of social media.

But above all else, in a dreary year for politics, Calgary and Toronto gave us mayoral elections worth watching and worth talking about. Which is more than can be said about just about everything else that happened politically in 2010.

2009: Jim Flaherty
2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

What’s the matter with Calgary?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Humour, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

Dear Calgary,

You used to be cool. You were the conservative rebel without a cause. You welcomed George Bush and Sarah Palin with open arms. You could always be counted on for a good pro-Iraq war rally. Ann Coulter called you “the good Canadians”.

The man who embodied this Calgary image was Ralph Klein. He was your mayor in the 80s. By voting for Ralph in 1993, you saved Alberta from a Liberal government. You stood by your man even after the drunken visits to homeless shelters, after the plagiarism, after he heckled the AISH recipients. The rest of the country laughed at Ralph, but you didn’t care. Because, like Ralph, you were too cool to care.

This all led to a good natured rivalry with Toronto. In 2004, Scott Reid famously said “Alberta can blow me” during the election campaign. A decade earlier, you’d pasted “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark” bumper stickers on your trucks. That was just the sort of relationship Calgary and Toronto have always had.

And you know what? The relationship worked. Calgarians hated the Toronto elites for their self-righteousness and their blind devotion to the Liberal Party, while the self righteous Toronto elites shook their heads and wondered what was wrong with those backwater Calgarians who would elect a donkey if you slapped a Tory logo on its behind.

But now, everything has gone topsy turvy. Here’s the Leger mayoral poll from yesterday’s Calgary Herald:

Nenshi has now rocketed to 30 per cent, tied with Higgins and just behind Ric McIver’s 33 per cent support, according to a Leger Marketing survey of 500 Calgarians conducted between Oct. 6 and 11.

Holy chinook?!? The “it” candidate in the Calgary election went to Harvard, ran a nonprofit, and blogs about the best ways to limit urban sprawl. Rosedale parents are going to have a hard time using that to turn their children against Calgary and scare them into voting Liberal.

Especially given what’s been going on in Toronto, where the front runner wants to limit immigration, says “oriental people work like dogs“, and has a record of DUI and assault charges so long it would make Ralph Klein blush.

I mean, seriously. Take a look at these two pictures and tell me which one of these guys looks like he should be mayor of Toronto and which one looks like he should be mayor of Calgary:

And it’s not just Naheed. The “conservative” candidate in Calgary’s mayoral election, Ric McIver, has staked out the conservative turf by…promising to raise taxes less than the other candidates. Hell, he’s been attacked by the NDP candidate in the race for wanting to spend too much on the airport tunnel. The guy isn’t exactly the president of Tea Party North.

The other front runner, Barb Higgins, is assumed to be progressive but, in fairness to her, that’s only because no one really knows what she stands for.

So Calgary, I’m writing you this letter as a friend. I feel someone has to let you know you’ve gone soft. Hell, you elected 5 Liberal MLAs in the last provincial election, more than “Redmonton”. Here’s an e-mail I got from a friend of mine in Calgary yesterday:

I for one, being a proud Western Canadian, welcome 4 years of insanity to the city of Toronto. I have always maintained that the real crazies in Canada live or reside in the city of Toronto, Mel Lastman proved that and may Mayor Ford continue that proud tradition.

All I know is that wack jobs like Lastman, Miller and Ford would never see the light of day in a sophisticated Canadian locale like Calgary, Alberta.

Is this how you want to be described Calgary? As “sophisticated“?

So I am begging you. To stop this insanity and preserve your reputation as Canada’s conservative bad boy, I am urging a massive “Rob Anders write in” campaign for mayor. You need to make this happen, simply to keep the natural order of the universe in balance.

Or else next thing you know they’ll be holding Pierre Trudeau parades down 17th Avenue and Stanley Cup parades down Yonge Street.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The Census (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

The Great Census Crisis of 2010 has its first music video. It’s only a matter of time before angry mobs of statisticians take to the streets holding “I’m with Fellegi signs” and chanting “What do we want? Mandatory long form Census! When do we want? Every 5 years!”. Don’t worry, if you can’t make the rallies, you can always show your support symbolically by wearing a Census-themed pocket protector.

Now, I fully recognize that during the summer the only random sampling Canadians are concerned about involves six packs. So for those of you who haven’t been grabbed by the witty “senseless Census” headlines, I present a summary of what the !%@# is going on.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS ALL ABOUT?

Governments have been conducting censuses for thousands of years – and the good ones are never voluntary. As a Charlie Brown Christmas taught us, Mary and Joseph didn’t have much of a choice when it came to being counted.

In Canada, the Census takes place every 5 years. All Canadians get the short form which asks the basic questions – name, age, gender, marital status, language. One in five houses get the long form which asks you about your sexual history, voting habits, and embarrassing High School nicknames. I’m kidding of course, but that’s what the government would have you believe. In reality, it asks questions about everything from your income to your ethnicity to your daily commute. On average, you’ll have to fill out 2 or 3 long forms in your life.

The debate focuses on the long form. Those trying to axe the Census argue these questions are an invasion of privacy. “Why the hell should the government know what time I leave to go to work?” they shout angrily on their twitter accounts and in Toronto Sun editorials.

Well,” the other side argues “so that cities can build roads and public transit to help you get to work on time. Duh.”

The reality is we live in an information age, and long form Census data is a valuable source of information. Governments use it to help plan communities and programs. Hospitals need it to provide the right kind of services and fight pandemics. Researches use it to track demographic trends over time. Masters students, like Stephen Harper, use it to write thesis papers. Think tanks, like the Fraser Institute, use it to prove their kooky right wing theories. And businesses use it all the time – just think of restaurants and grocery stores that sell ethnic foods or cater to specific client demographics.

THE PROBLEM WITH MAKING IT VOLUNTARY

As soon as you make a survey self-selecting (i.e. voluntary), certain types of people are more likely to fill it out. That’s why you really don’t want to put too much stock in the web polls on the Globe & Mail’s website.

Studies in the past have shown low income Canadians, visible minorities, and aboriginals are less likely to fill out voluntary surveys (I might add, these studies could only show this because we have Census data as a point of comparison). So if you’re trying to ensure government programs to help aboriginals are working…and low income aboriginals aren’t filling out the long form…you have a problem.

That’s why the US quickly scrapped plans to use a voluntary census after experimenting with the idea in 2003. Imagine that! Making sure it works first, instead of making the change because of a few angry e-mails.

THE GREAT CENSUS CRISIS OF 2010

Three weeks ago, it was quietly announced that the 2011 long form Census would become voluntary. Instead of being sent to every 5th household, it would be sent to every 3rd household. The cost of this? An extra 30 million dollars.

At first, the government’s response was limited 140 characters – a few tweets exchanged between Tony Clement and angry economists. After all, as Tony has since let it be known, the government that spends millions promoting Canada’s Economic Action Plan doesn’t believe government decisions “need to be shouted from every rooftop”.

I’m sure it never occurred to the man who said “only elites care about prorogation” that anyone would care about something as dull as survey methodology. Hell, Tony didn’t understand it himself and he was the Minister of Industry – how could normal non-elite Canadians be expected to understand the issue, much less care about it?

But slowly, people began taking notice and speaking out against the move.

The former head of StatsCan. The Canadian Medical Association. The Canadian Association of Business Economists. The Canada West Foundation. Municipal governments. Newspaper editorials (including those pro-government coercion communists at the National Post and Calgary Herald). Alex Himelfarb. Don Drummond (who sits on the StatsCan advisory panel which was…never asked for advice on the change). It’s a long list, and you can view it here. And here.

Oh, and all the provinces except Alberta now oppose the move – but even there, the City of Calgary has been critical saying it would “cripple” their decision making ability. And Edmonton Conservative MP James Rajotte (who is now assured of never getting into a Harper Cabinet) has broken ranks, demanding an explanation from Clement.

Faced with this backlash, the empire struck back this week. After all, the party which sends Happy Hanukkah cards to swing voters feels you have a right to your privacy. First, there was the Star Wars themed press release, and accusations that Census officials would break down your door at 10 pm while you were “trying to read” (reading? That sounds awfully elitist to me). Then, the Toronto Sun wrote an editorial comparing the long form Census to communism (you know who else conducted a Census? Hitler!).

Maxime Bernier has emerged as the government’s point man on this, which is understandable – if there’s anyone who understands how easy it is for confidential information to leak out, it’s Max. Bernier has laid out the government’s position which is, in short, that it’s wrong to “coerce” Canadians into filling out “intrusive” questions, under the threat of imprisonment.

LOOKING AT THE GOVERNMENT’S ARGUMENT

The problem with this argument, is that it’s inconsistent with the government’s actions.

If there are specific questions they feel are intrusive, they can be removed. Personally, I don’t find the Census any less intrusive than an income tax form, and data is only reported in averages and totals – there’s no way anyone anywhere will know what I wrote on my Census form.

If they don’t see any value in the long form, then they should axe it altogether and save the money.

If they feel it’s “coercive” to force Canadians to fill out a form, then why are they still being coerced into completing the short form? And why are farmers being coerced into filling out an equally intrusive agricultural long form? Furthermore, does the “tough on crime” party actually believe that threatening to put people in jail for breaking the law amounts to “coercion”? Oh, and I should add that no one has ever gone to jail in Canada for not filling out their Census form. Just thought I’d mention that.

In short, Clement has come up with a more expensive and less effective alternative.

Now, in fairness, the government has also claimed there’s a groundswell of Canadians who feel the Census is intrusive. And, if voters did feel this way, there might be an argument to make for changing it. I’d argue the benefits of the Census still justify it (I mean, who likes paying taxes or being called for jury duty), but it would be a fair argument.

Maxime Bernier claims “thousands of e-mails” were sent to him complaining about the long form Census in 2006. Perhaps, but we have no proof of this. I guess it’s possible Bernier misplaced them. What we do have proof from is 22 “expressions of concern” sent to StatsCan during the 2006 Census process, and 3 complaints to the privacy commissioner over the past decade. At the same time, the privacy commissioner has raised concerns about other programs which the government shows no interest in scrapping.

Still, the government’s decision appears to have found some support. Tony Clement has personally thanked 10 people by name on Twitter for their words of encouragement. By the way, Tony Clement has 3500 followers on Twitter.

WHAT NOW?

The government appears unlikely to back down and there’s no indication this issue has captivated the hearts and minds of Canadians.

Still, the Industry Committee will look into this. The head of StatsCan has resigned in protest. And groups opposed to the change will continue to raise a little hell.

So like it or not, expect a lot more news on the Census for the rest of this summer.

Fifth Annual Politicians in Cowboy Hats

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Humour, Politicians in Cowboy Hats | Leave a comment

For a brief history of Stampede fashion, you can read the 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 round-ups.

You never quite now what you’ll get at the Stampede. The boy from Calgary became a national laughing stock when he mistook the Stampede for a Village People convention in 2005. And the geeky Liberal pushing the carbon tax was named “best dressed” by both this blog and CP in 2008.

Of course, 6 months later Dion had been pushed out as Liberal leader, and 6 months after leathervestgate, Harper was Prime Minister. So it’s best not to read too much into this (unlike, say, a broken down bus which we all KNOW is directly linked to electoral fortunes).

Federal Politicians

Once again, we have a surprise winner this year in the “best dressed” category. Why, it’s none other than Mr. Ivory Tower Michael Ignatieff. The urban legend in Calgary is that no one had ever been able to find a cowboy hat big enough to fit Ignatieff’s head, but for the first time in five years he has moseyed into town in full gear, hat included, and he doesn’t look the least bit out of place.

Wait, I thought he said he liked the smell of barns! Flip flop!

Layton and Harper have been to enough stampedes that we know what to expect from them. Layton always winds up looking surprisingly at ease for a mustached Toronto socialist. And Harper? Well, since leather vest gate, he always plays it safe and gets a C+/B- grade. The man never looks comfortable, but at least he doesn’t embarrass himself.

You know, despite all the talk of Harper playing chess, I’ve always thought his tactics were more of the “detonator” variety. Kelowna Accord? KABOOM! Census? KABOOM! Promises not to appoint senators? KABOOM!

But if Harper and Layton have become too predictable, let’s all raise a glass of sillabub to toast Elizabeth May. Worst dressed in 2008. Best dressed in 2009. And this year? I’ll reserve judgement until I can find a picture of her before she tumbled into the tie dye trough.


And, in the interests of by partisanship, a special shout out to stampede superstar Jim Prentice – yeah, he’s got a bad record as environment minister, but he rides a horse in the parade every year and looks like he could handle himself in the rodeo.

Prentice has a wide range out outfits and he makes them all work. And the ladies can’t get enough of Jim’s talk of voluntary 40 year emission reduction targets.

Provincial Politicians

Ed Stelmach disappoints every year at the Stampede. In 2007, he had us all smacking our heads on the ground when he called it “the Alberta Stampede“. The last two years, he has celebrated the Alberta Stampede by wearing a suit jacket over top of his cowboy duds. A major no-no.

And this year, it’s more of the same. On the weekend, he went with a rather unflattering vest that Ed’s mom appears to have sewn his name into, and on Tuesday he dusted off the suit for the third straight year.


But despite my criticism of Stelmach, I’m going to give his Finance Minister the title of “Worst Dressed” this year. I’m hesitant to do this based on a profile picture, but I can’t imagine anything going on below the shoulders that could salvage this outfit.

Once again, Ted is just trying to hard. When he ran for leadership, he drafted a catchy little country music jingle. He holds “golf and gun” fundraisers. But, really, he’s just a university professor from the big city trying to pass himself off as a good ‘ol country boy. And, in this case, it shows.

Which brings us to David Swann who is an academic from the big city and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. In fact, he rode his bicycle in the Stampede parade this year.

But you know what? Even though Swann looks completely out of place every year, he puts on the hat, the boots, and the belt buckle. He hosts one of the largest stampede breakfasts in Calgary. And he always looks like he’s having a great time. That’s something Albertans can respect.

Municipal Politicians

This is Dave Bronconnier’s last stampede as mayor and I’ll give the man props, he has always dressed, looked, and acted just like the Mayor of Calgary should during stampede. Hell, the man even rides a horse for crying out loud.

2009 Man of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Person of the Year | Leave a comment

I’ve picked a “Person of the Year” for five years running now – it’s not always someone I like (see: Klein, Ralph), and it’s not always someone who had a very good year (see: Dion, Stephane). Rather, I like to pick someone who left their mark on Canadian politics over the past 12 months. And as a rule of thumb, unlike the Canadian Press award, I try to stay away from the Prime Minister, since that’s a bit of a gimme most years.

With no federal election in 2009, there’s a temptation to look at provincial politics – Dalton McGuinty was a busy boy, bring in the HST, the Green Energy Act, and full-day kindergarten, while fighting off scandal at EHealth. Gordon Campbell was re-elected, then pretty much guaranteed he wouldn’t be in 2013. Darrell Dexter became Atlantic Canada’s first NDP Premier.

Federally, the rise and fall of Michael Ignatieff got a lot of ink. As did Nanny-gate, Wafer-gate, RAIT-gate, and a slew of other stories that made us all question why it’s really worth wasting time on Canadian politics that could be better spent doing something more productive…like, say, watching reality TV.

But, if you look beyond all the silliness in what was one of the most petty and trivial years in Canadian political history, there were a few important events. And the man at the centre of them earns this year’s Person of the Year:

Jim Flaherty

Given how Stephen Harper rules his caucus, it’s always a risk to give a Cabinet Minister credit for dressing himself, never mind making major policy decisions. But in a year dominated by talk of the economy, the Finance Minister was the face of several important decisions.

First and foremost was January’s budget which ensured the survival of the Harper government and ended the coalition threat once and for all (or at least until the CPC attack ads hit the air next election). But the price was high – Canada’s first deficit budget in 12 years, which had fiscal Conservatives pulling out their hair and wondering how the offspring of the Reform Party could become the biggest spending government in Canadian history. The projected size of the deficit also had a bad habit of increasing by several billion dollars every month.

The budget’s stimulus program led to accusations of pork barrel politics and several studies showed that money was being disproportionately spent in Tory ridings. The opposition parties pounced on this, determined to make it as clear as possible to voters that the best way to get what your riding needed was by voting Conservative. It never turned out to be the game-changer they hoped it would be.

However it was Flaherty’s 2008 budget which may have had the biggest impact on the political landscape in 2009. In was in that budget that he pushed hard for the provinces to harmonize their PSTs with the GST and, one year later, a pair of Premiers took him up on his offer. The end result may be the eventual defeat of two of Canada’s longest-serving Premiers but, if economists are to be believed, it will also be a godsend for business in two of Canada’s largest provinces.

And, while less headline-grabbing, Flaherty’s push for a National Securities Regulator represents a real policy decision with meat and bones on it. It’s also one of the few decisions the Harper government has made that hasn’t been driven by Patrick Muttart’s micro-targeted polling numbers.

Love him or hate him, Jim Flaherty is turning into one of the most memorable Finance Ministers in Canadian history. Hell, one somewhat misguided magazine named him the Finance Minister of the Year (no, it wasn’t the Onion). So, in an otherwise banal year in politics, Flaherty gets another title, this time as my 2009 Person of the Year.

Previous Winners

2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

Christmas Letters: Elizabeth May

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Humour, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An exclusive look at Elizabeth May’s Christmas letter, after posting ones for Harper, Ignatieff, and Layton earlier this week.


Friends,

Hi, it’s me – Elizabeth May. From the Green Party. I was the lady in the debates last year.

I know you’ve probably been wondering what I’ve been up to. It’s not that I’ve been quiet, it’s that the media continues to unfairly ignore the Green Party.

So you may have been surprised to see a BC postmark on this envelope, but don’t be – I’ve got a new home! After Green Party strategists pointed out that it was foolish for me to take on an established Cabinet Minister like Peter MacKay in the last election, I’ve picked a new riding to run in. This time, I’ll be tricycling door to door to defeat Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn, so I would really appreciate your vote. Unless you want to vote Liberal, which I’m mostly cool with too.

Given all that’s happened with the world economy over the past year, I know there’s one issue on the minds of all Canadians – proportional representation! This issue is often confusing so let me put it in terms so simple that even Canadian voters, in all their ignorance, will be able to understand:

Let’s say your family is sitting down for a winter equinox tofurkey dinner. Do you think it’s fairer that one person gets a majority of the tofurkey, or would you rather everyone gets a fair portion? Proportional representation is kind of like that.

Please recycle this letter at your earliest convenience,

Elizabeth May

Christmas Letters: Jack Layton

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Humour | Leave a comment

After a look at Harper and Ignatieff’s Christmas letters, we move on today to Jack Layton’s.


Dear working families,

It’s been a great year for progressives across North America, with Barack Obama entering the White House, and the NDP winning the New Westminster-Coquitlam by election. All together now – Yes We Can! Yes We Can!

The year started with Michael Ignatieff showing a lack of conviction and principle, propping up the Harper Conservatives and their pro-bank, pro-oil, anti-kitchen table agenda. Luckily Canada’s New Democrats were there to oppose both Stephen Harper and ATM fees.

Then, in the fall, when Michael Ignatieff tried to plunge the country into an unwanted election, Canada’s NDP were there to support the Conservatives, in order to get real results for people.

People often come up to me and say “Jack, what do you do when you’re not getting results for people or offering hope to Canadians?”. After signing an autograph for them, I usually reply “thinking about getting results for people”. Because that’s really what it’s all about. That, and kitchen table issues.

Live long and prosper,

Jack

PS. Ed Broadbent

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