Today is a pretty neat day – I’ll be in Toronto gathering with some of our blogging afffiliates past and present to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Progressive Bloggers – the original blogging aggregator of progressive blogs in Canada. It was started up in June 2005 by Wayne Chu, aided by Dan Arnold (of CalgaryGrit fame) with some advice from me and others on forming something to show the then very active blogosphere there were more then just the Blogging Tories online. (The blogosphere back then was seemingly dominated by conservative blogs – I’d like to think we helped counter that a tad).
Wayne stepped away from his admin role in 2006 and handed the reins to me. We have undergone some transformations of aesthetics and of format and of moderators, but we are still here, and blogs are still here, despite their predicted death by some (though Liblogs, the Liberal blogging aggregate has seemingly and sadly ceased to be on the past couple of months). Progressive Bloggers still gets around 60 000 pageviews a month (or around 2000 a day), so there still is interest in reading detailed posts on topics, when people want more then 140 characters to analyze something. I expect those numbers to climb once the election hits in October.
I thank all those over the years who have been blogging affiliates and still are of Progressive Bloggers. Without you, there is no aggregate to show Canada.
(Also, as an aside, apologies for the length in between posts on here . As you can tell, I’ve been involved in helping out on a political campaign, plus other personal things have intervened at times, and that leaves for long interludes between blogposts at times.)
There was a lot of activity happening this past Friday and Saturday in Brantford-Brant where my friend Danielle Takacs is running. On Friday, the Honourable John McCallum came down to the riding to spend a half day with Danielle greeting people and talking to them at the Via Rail Train Station about the Fairness plan. This was the 2nd visit by Mr. McCallum in the past 3 months in support of Danielle and the local campaign. We were also joined by former Brant MP Lloyd St. Amand at the Station. They then proceeded to the Chartwell Seniors Residence Home, where they discusses seniors issues with the residents as well as any other issues they had on their minds. We then enjoyed Mr. McCallum’s company back at the Community Office for lunch, where he chatted with volunteers about issues and the campaign. It is fair to say he was very impressed with his tour of the Community Office and its format.
Oh, speaking of the Community Office, that was officially open on Saturday! Volunteers, including Danielle, burnt a lot of midnight oil on Friday night, getting the place ready for the grand opening. On hand to help open the office along with Danielle were special guests Brantford-Brant MPP and Speaker of the Ontario Legislature Dave Levac, Lloyd St. Amand, and Guelph Liberal MP Frank Valeriote, who is not running in the next federal election campaign. The weather was downright crappy, to say the least, but from the sign-ins and the other folks who didn’t sign-in, I’d estimate about 125-150 people showed up.. so a fantastic turnout, considering the weather. You can find the Community Office at 185 King George Road in Brantford, by the way, and it now is officially open every day from 10am – 4pm, with possible extended hours for other events as needed.
All in all, a pretty successful couple of days for the Brantford-Brant LPC and Danielle. Personally, It was a pleasure to be a part of it. Thanks to all the volunteers who were there or couldn’t be there that helped make this happen.
Update at 12:31 pm: Check out this photoalbum for a lot more pictures of the Community Office Grand Opening!
Yesterday in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau and over 160 candidates (including my friend and candidate for Brantford-Brant Danielle Takacs) released a set of 32 democratic reform proposals called “Real Change”, which would significantly overhaul how democratic institutions and process work in the country. Everyone knows I’m a Liberal supporter, so hearing I’m excited about these would not be surprising to anyone (particularly the part that says our current electoral model of First Past The Post will be our last in 2015). So let’s look at the reaction of some more non-partisan, even cynical folks out there.
-Paul Wells on Twitter and a more fleshed out version at Macleans
– The former Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, welcomed the proposals.
Vice News Justin Ling was very impressed with some proposals (Access to Information request/access in this case) , and says the Liberals have jumped ahead of the NDP in democratic reform initatives/proposals.
Professor Emm Mcfarlane of Policy Options offers praise of most of the package, but has fair questions about some other aspects.
– The Toronto Star approves. The Globe, as I’d expect, more cautiously so (The Globe never has been a big proponent of changing the FPTP electoral model). The National Post editorial called it a “bold reform plan”
– Michael Den Tandt of the National Post said Justin Trudeau (and to be fair, he mentioned Mulcair as well) utterly changed political Canada in one day. This is good. Den Tandt’s quote on Trudeau:
“Trudeau’s speech was unremarkable in its delivery. But the content, and the subsequent question-and-answer session with reporters, were anything but. The Liberal leader unveiled a series of 32 proposals, many of which singly, if implemented, would transform Canadian democracy.”
Some of you may have read this at Rabble the other day, about a theory Karl Nerenberg has as to why Harper seems to not support the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s findings or its recommendations:
The reason Harper and his government have adopted this grin-and-bear-it attitude toward the TRC is that they hear other voices than those that have flooded the media this week. The Conservative leader is acutely aware that many of his party’s “base” have views quite at variance with the “politically correct” consensus…the fact that there is so much openly anti-First Nations blather out there, shielded by the cloak of Internet anonymity, suggests that a significant measure of white backlash does, in fact, exist. The prime minister will never openly acknowledge the backlash. But in assuming the detached pose he has, and making no commitment to fulfill even a single one of the TRC’s calls to action, the Conservative leader is signalling to all the white backlashers out there that he hears them.
a) IF that’s true, shame on the Prime Minister for being scared of what I have to believe is a minority – even in his own base. Scrounging for and trying to keep votes from the bigots crawling out of the woodwork is unseemly, and makes his apology back in 2008 on this issue meaningless and without sincerity.
b) I’m more uncomfortable that the Prime Minister is indicating by his silence that he actually agrees with a lot of the backlash being sent the report’s way by the rabid pack that makes up some of his base – and I’ll say I slightly disagree with the author – not all of it is anonymous either. You can read some of the usual far-rightwing suspects at Blogging Tories or on social media for an example or two of that attitude, which they are quite willing to stand behind.
c) The other reason that he may not be doing much on this report? Spite. Everyone knows the First Nations have been a key player in delaying or threatening to delay oil pipelines to BC and elsewhere, helping to stifle Harper’s dream of becoming an “energy superpower” – which has gone down the drain anyhow with the collapse of oil prices, but that’s beside the point. Harper holds grudges better and longer then any politician I know. I’d not be surprised if he feels he owes the First Nations no favours because of their opposition to him on this other issue.
Given the furore over the past couple of months on social media – most of it NDP activist driven – you’d think that the entire country hated Bill C51, the new security and anti-terrorism bill – and entire sections of disaffected Liberal Party activists and voters were deserting the LPC and flocking to the NDP. A new poll by Angus-Reid released yesterday, however, would tend to show that narrative is false. There is still strong public support for Bill C51, but also strong support for adding oversight to make sure police and other agencies don’t overdo it:
Nationally, nearly three-in-four (72%) Canadians polled in a new public opinion survey by the Angus Reid Institute say they support the legislation, which was introduced in late January and has now passed third reading in the House of Commons, including one-quarter (24%) who say they “strongly” support it…Canadians remain concerned about the issue of police oversight – one of the central items in the debate surrounding the legislation. Seven-in-ten (71%) surveyed express an as-yet unmet desire to see additional supervision of law enforcement to ensure they don’t go overboard with their new powers. Conversely, one-in-three (29%) are satisfied with the level of police oversight that exists today. On this key issue, there has been no change in public opinion since the February poll.
You might be reading online that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have taken considerable flak about supporting this bill but promising to add oversight to its powers if elected. It would appear at least in this pollster’s numbers, the public is onside with that stance, and the LPC position on campaigning on additional oversight may not be so badly perceived in the public as some of the internal critics and NDP’ers think on social media.
THat said, do I think the bill is perfect? No, I’m uncomfortable with some aspects of it, but I believe once oversight is added to this law’s powers, it can be made a better bill.
EDIT: I am also sure someone will be taking this law to court to challenge some or all of its constitutionality once it’s officially passed, and that’s fine too.
One would almost think the Supreme Court is getting tired of the Conservative government’s vendetta against Omar Khadr:
The country’s top court swiftly dismissed the Conservative government’s latest attempt to see former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr dealt with as a hardened offender deserving of more time in an adult federal penitentiary. It was a rare judgment issued from the bench that came after little more than two hours of oral argument on Thursday. And it is the third time that Ottawa has lost in matters involving Omar Khadr at the Supreme Court of Canada…At the end, the high court upheld an earlier ruling of the Alberta Court of Appeal, rejected the federal arguments and awarded legal costs against the government.
Khadr wasn’t present but his lawyers, Whitling and Dennis Edney, rejoiced, with Edney admitting his surprise it happened so quickly. “Perhaps there’s a message there, less for myself and more for this government, that continues to waste taxpayers’ dollars persecuting my client.”
So the Supreme Court took only 2 hrs to reject the federal government’s arguments, awarded costs, and oh, by the way, the verdict was unanimous (9-0), with 7 of those judges appointed by Harper.
About time to stop beating a dead horse, regardless how much the Conservative “base” hates him.
Nice to see some long-delayed fairness and justice taking place this morning:
“Mr. Khadr you’re free to go.”
With those words, Alberta Court of Appeal Justice Myra Bielby turned down the federal government’s last-ditch effort Thursday to keep the 28-year-old detained. Khadr and his supporters in the courtroom erupted in cheers when the decision was read…
The decision left Paul Champ, an Ottawa lawyer specializing in military law, with a positive feeling about Canada’s legal system, he said.“The government never had any solid legal arguments,” Champ said in an interview. “It was clear that their position was political rather than legal.“I’m proud to live in a country where judges can rule in accordance with legal principles and not political pressure,” Champ said.
Predictably, the conservative fire-breathers have been reacting like this to the news:
Last week, not too long after the budget release, an Abacus poll was released showing the Conservatives jumping to an 8 point lead over the Liberals. The immediate analysis of that pollster of their results, and from pundits and partisans (even some from our own side) on social media immediately declared – on the basis of this one poll – that the Liberals were in a bit of trouble. Fortunately though, they still had a few months to do something.
Curiously, an Ekos poll was released a couple of days later that, while the Liberals were still down to the Conservatives (a 3 pt deficit), that had stayed more or less the same as previous polls, and the Budget had basically done nothing to move the needle. Not a lot of pundit reaction to that poll.
Also a LOT of pundit silence to the Leger Poll released yesterday, that showed the Liberal Party with a national 1 point lead. Rather inconvenient, those polls, breaking the pundits narrative on the Liberal Party being in trouble.
There will be polls of all types coming out over the next few months that may indicate worse or better fortunes for the LPC (or the other parties, frankly), but it would be rather nice for pundits to a) stop reflexively jumping on 1 poll’s findings if it were The Gospel , without waiting for other polls to confirm its findings, and/or b) if other polls come out that contradict said previous poll and said previous pundits’ declaration, it would be nice for them to acknowledge maybe there’s another side to the story, and perhaps they were wrong to jump to conclusions.
Partisans like me can be expected to jump over a favourable poll and point to how well we are doing.. while perhaps trying to ignore the other pollster poll released the next day that says the opposite. I’d expect pundits or reporters to be slightly better at mentioning that “oh, by the way, this poll contradicts this poll yesterday, so maybe the LPC isn’t in as much trouble as we thought?”
(I had the pleasure of getting to meet and know Leanne at the Feb 2014 Liberal Convention in Montreal. We had been vaguely aware of each other before through blog interactions, so we weren’t total strangers, but it was a treat to meet her in person, and after getting to know her, I was pleased she was elected to National Membership Secretary. I thank Leanna for contributing this guest-blogpost to assess her first year on the “job”!. As usual, all guestblog posts/opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of me or this site. – Scott.)
Well, as the poet says “Time flies when you’re having fun”! It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since I had the pleasure of meeting so many of you from across the country, ultimately coming together for a truly exciting convention here in Montreal. Since that time, our Liberal numbers have swelled and we are well on the way to victory this year.
After being elected National Membership Secretary, I was eager to hit the ground running, but the reality of the job to be done got in the way of that plan. For the first few months after being elected I was doing double duty as President of the LPC(Q) Legal Commission and National Membership Secretary; with Quebec’s bi-ennial convention (that would see the election of a new board of directors who would be helping set us on track for the next elections) looming on the horizon, it was important I do the job right, right up until it was time to pass the baton. Relieved of my Quebec-centric duties, I was free to get into the meat of the membership job and the first task was to deal with some operational issues with respect to how we process membership requests.
A few years ago our National Board of Directors decided that in order to allow provincial offices to focus their time and money on field work and supporting the ridings on the ground, membership administration should become a national responsibility. However, in my discussions with PTA office staff, I discovered that too often they were still spending time and energy dealing with membership forms. In order to address this issue and to make it easier and more equitable for everyone to get membership forms, I made a recommendation at our August National Board meeting, that the National Membership By-law be changed to reflect the change the previous board had put in place, so that all processing of membership forms, from requests for forms to the entering of data from forms submitted and the sending out of renewal notices, be handled by the National Membership Office, which had already been created for that very purpose. My colleagues on the National Board agreed that this was the way to go.
Another change that needed to be made was to make sure that the Party had the information required to communicate with new members. It didn’t make sense that our membership forms did not include a requirement to provide any information other than a mailing address. To rectify this, our National Management Committee approved a change to the membership form to make the inclusion of either a phone number or email address obligatory. I’ve had some great feedback on that change and I’m hoping it will make it easier for ridings and candidates to reach out to members who want to be involved.
Following the August Board meeting, our LPC President Anna Gainey invited me to help deliver on one of her campaign initiatives, which was to create a membership survey to help interact with and understand our membership better. With the help of not only my local Café Politique group and the LPC Analytics team, but a lot of very helpful staff members, I’m happy to report that we came up with some questions that let members give feedback on a variety of topics from membership rewards and involvement to policy priorities and even open ended suggestions. Over 5000 members answered the survey and the feedback has already resulted in some changes to the monthly newsletter and certain party priorities. I’m hoping to give you a fuller report of the interesting results of this survey in another blog post soon.
With our leader’s commitment to open nominations and the importance of selling memberships during that time, making sure the membership rules are applied fairly has been a big part of my job as we build our team for victory in 2015. Membership challenges and investigations are a part of the process and sometimes the National Membership Secretary has the responsibility of interpreting the Membership rules and making decisions about potential violations. My point of reference has always been to ensure that the rights of members are the first priority.
Throughout this time, whenever possible I have lent a hand at nomination meetings here in Quebec. Not only do I think it’s important to volunteer wherever I can in this important process, but in working at the “Solutions table” I get to see firsthand what sort of glitches there can be in the membership lists and in many cases, resolve them on the spot. Often it’s just a case of a spelling mistake or names being reversed and with a few verifications we can make sure the member gets to vote. Hopefully, the experience of voting in these meetings is a good warm-up for members who may need to make sure their identification documents are up to date for the general election.
As we come to the end of the first year of the mandate, there are still many issues that I hope to address: Commission access to membership lists, help for ridings looking to build or support membership, the term of membership and creating a welcome kit for ridings, and I’m looking forward to getting to work on these challenges. Obviously, I can’t do it alone, so my short term goal is to set up a National Membership Working Group, to help think through ways of addressing issues such as delays in delivering membership forms from northern or rural ridings, how to facilitate membership for those who have trouble with paying the fee and how to more effectively manage the production and delivery of membership cards for those who want them. I would be happy to know what you, the members on the ground, are experiencing, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and let me know what’s on your mind!
Inconvenient comment #1:
Inconvenient Comment #2:
Former Conservative Finance Minister – the late Jim Flaherty – ruled out dipping into contingency fund last year to balance the books:
Flaherty told CBC News it would be “imprudent” to do so as the fund has frequently proven necessary. “If you do the arithmetic, we could have had a budget balanced by $100,000,” Flaherty said at the time. “I prefer to have a nice clean surplus.”
Inconvenient Comment #3:
Again from Jim Flaherty: this time rejecting dipping into the EI fund to balance the books:
“We do not take EI funds and use them to balance the budget. That’s what the Liberals did,”
Very Prescient Comment:
In that same article, now what the Parliamentary Budget Office said that has come true (denied by Flaherty, by the way):
A Parliamentary Budget Office report released Thursday said the Conservative government may need to depend on artificially high EI premiums, asset sales and spending restraint to balance the budget by the 2015 election.
Just some interesting things to remember what was said, don’t you think?