Having just got back from vacation (we visited the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida), it’s time to get a bit more back into blogging. I posted the following as an extended comment for Crommunist who recently discussed the Alberta election.
Follow this stream on Friday and Saturday for my Twitter thoughts and comments on the NDP Leadership Showcase and voting.
I’ll be starting the feed at 10:00 AM PDT on Friday and ending on Saturday afternoon when the voting ends.
It’s rare to get a response from a politician when you send them an email. It’s even rarer to get anything more than a form letter.
But I’ve never seen anything where an MP from across the country takes the time to read my concerns in their entirety and responds in kind to each point.
Last week, I mentioned that the NDP are still chasing down leads on the Office of Religious Freedom and after writing the post, I sent an email to Hélène Laverdière, NDP MP for Laurier – Ste-Marie, and Official Opposition Critic for Foreign Affairs. My email and her eloquent and detailed response are below the fold.
With the recent robocall scandal, upcoming budget, and NDP leadership race, it’s easy to forget some of the other controversies that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have thrown us over the past year.
Luckily, we have representatives like NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière, who continue to work to uncover answers. Specifically, she submitted an Order Paper question on the Office of Religious Freedoms that has been mired in mystery since Harper’s election promise and subsequent founding.
According to CBC correspondent Kady O’Malley (who you must follow on Twitter), these are designed to ask “all manner of questions on the administration of government – specifically, questions that, by their very nature, were simply too technical or otherwise unwieldy to be answered during [question period].” Basically, boring stuff that still merits some investigation. It’s less theatrical than question period but often equally important.
Despite the random number of polls and media speculation, there’s really only one way to know who’s doing the best in a race like the NDP leadership race – the final ballot.
But until then we can make up all kinds of metrics to see how well everyone is doing. For example, Google offers their search insights which lets you track how many people are searching for different terms. By comparing the leadership contenders over the course of the race, we can see who has momentum and is generating interest.
Unfortunately, the chart limits me to only 5 terms at a time, so you’ll have to view these results in two separate graphs.
First, the “frontrunners”: Thomas Mulcair, Brian Topp, Nathan Cullen, Peggy Nash, and Paul Dewar. [Click to enlarge]
Here we can see Mulcair’ leads the search results – primarily due to a large bump back in October. We see that he and Nathan Cullen are in a tight race for first, with Cullen just overtaking Mulcair in the last week. Peggy Nash isn’t far behind and Brian Topp seems to have maintained a consistent interest, albeit lower than when he lead from November until mid-January. Finally, after a low-searched campaign, Dewar has fallen off the chart.
Google allows us to further break these results down by region (see inset). These show that Mulcair holds a lead in Quebec, while Cullen has a strong lead in BC. In fact, Mulcair is fourth in BC, behind Cullen, Nash, and Topp. Dewar doesn’t appear in Quebec or BC, while Cullen doesn’t appear in Quebec.
To get the rest of the competitors, I’m going to replace Paul Dewar and Peggy Nash with Niki Ashton and Martin Singh for comparison, keeping as many colours constant as possible.
Here we see a big jump for Niki Ashton when she launched her campaign in November, followed by a fairly quiet campaign until early March before it crashed. By raw numbers, Niki Ashton is only slightly behind Paul Dewar and Martin Singh is trailing very close behind. What’s potentially more interesting is Martin Singh’s late jump ahead of Brian Topp in at the end. Directly comparing the numbers, he still falls just behind Peggy Nash. Singh’s jump is likely related to recent allegations of a pact between him and Mulcair.
In the regional data we can see neither candidate gets a hit in Quebec, and Singh is tied in BC with Mulcair. Ahston pulls ahead of Nathan Cullen in Ontario.
Unfortunately, our country is still too sparsely populated for Google to give us much deeper information (like the other provinces). Furthermore this represents search terms, which can be conducted by anyone. This doesn’t necessarily mean NDP members are searching for these people, although it’s likely a safe bet that more NDP members are searching for the leadership candidates than anyone else.
I’ve only included clips of the automatically generated graphs here, but you can follow the links above to the searches and play around with the parameters yourself or download the spreadsheet file.
After my initial NDP leadership race rankings I was looking for an excuse to move Mulcair up my ballot.
While I had some worries about the potential for his leadership, I still somewhat agreed with the general consensus that he looked the most prime ministerial and would be one of the strongest to take on Harper. He seemed to have pretty good odds at winning, so my hope was primarily for him to win later on the ballot, which might require him to soften his stance a bit.
Mulcair’s awful video and unequivocal denunciation of any (pre or post) electoral cooperation have made me quite worried though. In addition to this, after watching the Vancouver debate yesterday I have a few more thoughts on the race that have affected my rankings:
In a race where each candidate sounded very similar and were in “violent agreement” at the beginning, clear differences have definitely emerged to differentiate them.
Take Thomas Mulcair versus Nathan Cullen. Cullen was initially very low on my ballot for his joint nomination proposal, his overall focus on cooperation has wide appeal. Meanwhile, Mulcair talks about expanding the orange tent, but has taken a very different stand on cooperation – even post-electoral. Buried within a Huffington Post interview he takes his stand:
One thing Mulcair is clear on is that he’ll go after Liberal supporters, but won’t work with the rival party.
“N.O.,” he told HuffPost. The NDP tried to form a coalition with the Liberals in 2008 and then the Grits “lifted their noses up on it,” Mulcair said.
The coalition experience taught Mulcair everything he needs to know about the Liberals. They’re untrustworthy and he said he’ll never work with them again, whether in a formal or informal coalition.
“The no is categorical, absolute, irrefutable and non-negotiable. It’s no. End of story. Full stop,” he said.
This is exactly the opposite of what Jack Layton talked about. His 2011 message in Quebec (I shouldn’t have to tell Mulcair) was travailles ensemble – working together. This message was able to rise above the partisan rhetoric and fit with Jack’s promises to “fix Ottawa” and to “make Parliament work.”
Instead Mulcair is flat-out stating that he wants to take the NDP to where the Liberals are, hoping to win at “Old Politics of division” (as some might say).
The sad irony here is that Mulcair currently holds the lead in opinion polling in Quebec, giving the false impression that he is best positioned to maintain the Orange Wave in 2015.
I say false because the 2015 election is still 3 and a half years away. Any new leader will have time to make or break their national personae in that time, and given what I see in Mulcair, I don’t see him maintaining that position.
(h/t Greg Fingas)
As the ballots start to get marked, each candidate for the leadership of the federal NDP is making their closing arguments.
With that, Thomas Mulcair has released a new YouTube video to declare “why we need a strong opposition.”
This is tragically disappointing. Nearly everything in the video is the exact opposite of the ads the NDP released during the last election with Jack Layton. Layton stood in front of a Canadian Flag, wore a shirt and tie with the sleeves rolled up, presented a positive message, and produced a slick production. By contrast, Mulcair wears a black suit in front of a black background, talks about what is wrong with Harper, and features really awkward cuts with needless text strewn in. The cuts are even discontinuous as Mulcair switches positions multiple times through the video.
Furthermore, you may note the use of words like “structured opposition”, which begs the question of how top-down and heavy handed a Mulcair administration might become. Even simply noting that comments are disabled on his video shows the unwillingness to engage a wider audience (although to be fair the official NDP YouTube channel has comments disabled and YouTube commenters are notoriously trollish).
The other video, What happened in Quebec, is no more inspiring. He continues to offer a minimal strategy for the rest of Canada, making the unproven and likely erroneous assumption that what works in Quebec will work in the West.
Mulcair is sounding more and more like a Stephen Harper for the NDP: a centralizing and controlling leader who will do what it takes to amalgamate power. As Niki Ashton might say, these are “the Old Politics of division” and I don’t see Mulcair connecting with the two-in-five Canadians who are not voting.
One final note, I didn’t manage to catch the debate here in Vancouver today due to the BC Humanist meeting but I will try to watch it later. I also may be moving Nathan Cullen up my ballot depending on his performance today – but more on that later.
First note that the vote for the leader of the NDP is still 3 weeks away, and through the magic of the internet, there is no need to actually vote until convention day (when you can vote in real time with the convention), these rankings aren’t finalized.
Each candidate has their strengths and weaknesses, many of which were obvious at the start of the campaign, some have been exposed through the race, and a couple have tried to counter their weaknesses . To determine my ranking I compared each candidate to each of the other candidates, determining subjectively which I would rather see lead the party.
My key issues for leader are:
- They must be able to grow the party in Western Canada. We need to win seats in Saskatchewan and Alberta and build on our strength in BC and Manitoba. We also have to break into Ontario. These are where the new seats are coming, and its where any future government will need its base. This means understanding rural and western issues and reaching those voters where they are.
- Obviously we also need to hold Quebec. Polls are starting to show that wave of support simmer down. While we’re still competitive, we can’t slip much further. I want a leader who can hold 30-60 seats without costing ones in Western Canada. Nothing alienates Albertans more than extra deference to Eastern issues.
- Our leader must be able to articulate a positive, progressive vision for Canada. We won’t beat Harper by going negative and we don’t need to be Liberals – there already is a party for the mushy middle. This includes reaching out to non-voters and those disaffected by the poisonous partisan rhetoric.
- A strong commitment to keeping Canada secular.
Before I get to my rankings, here’s what I see as the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate:
I noted that it didn’t seem like it violated any of the NDP or Canada Election rules, but one further recollection I realized that the rules being broken weren’t by Martin Singh’s campaign but by the Malton Gurdwara.