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Leadership Political Parties

The Mailing List

I’ve just unsubscribed from the NDP mailing list.

Explaining why, I said that it had become an unending stream of requests for money, with no engagement or consultation, while meanwhile the party can be hijacked at a convention.

This needs to be fixed. There needs to be a way to enable to have the party represent its membership. It’s almost 2020; there are ways to do this. And they would be a lot more effective and democratic than an in-person convention.

What would make this work?

There are various ways to design online forums, and we could try some different models, with the caveat that participants must be registered party members. That does not (necessarily) mean that every comment must be signed, but it does mean that we can conduct our conversations without the input of botnets and trolls from outside.

Within such a structure, we should be searching for the consensus that unites us. I think sometimes that political parties lose sight of what matters in the pursuit for power. That does not (necessarily) mean a statement of principles or any such thing – too much is lost in the search for exact wording.

We should also be seeking consensus on the issues of the day. Surely we can do better than a ‘pipeline versus no-pipeline’ debate. It was a significant failure that we could not have found common ground on an issue like this, one that recognizes the legitimate needs and aspirations of the people of Alberta, while also recognizing the need for safety, indigenous rights, and the environment.

The failure – in my mind – wasn’t simply the lack of a vision here, it was that we didn’t even try. There was no national dialogue on this, no attempt to draw upon the collective intelligence of the party as a whole. Rather, it was simply a retreat into media statements and political posturing.

We can do better. The party needs to use its online media to get members to talk to each other, to engage, to come up with ideas, and more solutions forward, rather than simply ask people for money.

The convention system of party governance should be abolished, the delegate system ended, and mechanisms put into place for the membership to reach agreement, point by point, on a comprehensive platform and strategy.

The majority of people in Canada are progressive-left. Yet we are constantly governed by parties from the right, because they have addressed the issues of engagement and identification with an idea in a way that we have not. The only way to change this is to bring people in, and make them part of the solution.

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Political Parties

The Greens and the NDP

The defection of 18 NDP candidates in New Brunswick to the Green Party raises once again the question that has been on my mind for a while, specifically, whether to align with the Greens rather than the NDP.

It could have been so different. Had the NDP not ousted Thomas Mulcair in 2016 as a result of the ill-conceived and tone-deaf LEAP Manifesto, he would have spent the last three years in the media holding to Trudeau to account, and would be viewed as a viable candidate for Prime Minister. And we would be having a very different conversation.

But he was ousted, and instead we got Jagmeet Singh who, on being chosen leader, immediately disappeared from view, leaving a dispute between the Alberta and B.C. NPD governments simmering, losing ground in Quebec, and never actually visiting New Brunswick at all.

By all accounts, the results in a few months in the general election could be historically bad. The party has yet to nominate anything close to a full slate of candidates, there’s mismanagement and mixed messaging in the campaign (“We’re in it for you”), and Jagmeet’s choice of issues to comment on seems… odd.

We have no idea where he stands on China, on relations with Trump, on a post-Brexit deal with Britain, on environment and pipelines and carbon pricing, on education… but we know he’s very proud of his brother, he’d like lower cell phone costs, and like every NDP candidate since ever, he supports pharmacare.

All this makes me take a closer look at the Greens. They have been running on a consistent message for a long time now, we know they will not compromise on environmental issues, and they seem progressive on other issues. They recognize, I think, that environmental issues are also social issues, and that fundamental Canadian rights like health care need to be protected.

So… good, right? But the Greens also have a long history of accommodating corporate interests. And their campaign slogan “Not Left. Not Right. Forward Together.” is ambiguous to the point of distress. I agree with the subtext: “The real divide of the 21st Century is not left versus right, but insiders (the one percent) versus the rest of us.” The question is, are the Greens the party to deliver on that?

Through the election I’ll be watching both NDP news releases and Green news releases not so much for the content – the two parties often echo each other – but for the selection of issues to care about. What will the parties do specifically to wrest control from the super rich and return to traditional Canadian values of respect for the environment and for people?

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Leadership Political Parties

Andrew Scheer

This name that you don’t recognize is the leader of the Conservative Party in Canada. His obscurity creates a challenge for him: he has to attract the attention of the media in a world of people like Doug Ford and Donald Trump.

There was a time when sharp and incisive criticism of the government would have done the job. Standing in Parliament day after day and pressing the government with an even-handed but ethically and logically sound series of questions designed to demonstrate that you understand the issues, and the consequences of policy, better than your opponent.

That’s not what Andrew Scheer is doing. His approach is instead to go for the headline and pander to his party’s baser instincts. If there’s a conflict between nations, his approach is to inflame the conflict. If there is a prejudice against a particular minority, his approach is to stoke that prejudice.

I have never agreed with conservatives but there was a time when I could respect them. But this approach – misleadingly called ‘populism’ in the media – doesn’t require thought or principle. You don’t need to wait until the facts are in or calculate the merits of different approaches.

Scheer has demonstrated this tendency for some months now but two cases in the last week lay open the bare bones of this strategy.

In one case, “Scheer says if he was prime minister he would fire Canada’s Ambassador to China John McCallum over his most recent comments on Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.” McCallum suggested to a Chinese-language audience that Wanzhou would have a good case against extradition to the United States.

We are being told in the media that the comments undercut Trudeau’s position that the government does not interfere with the administration of justice in Canada. Maybe it did, or maybe it represented a subtle way for the Trudeau government to underline its position and to recommend to the Chinese to trust the rule of law. We don’t know, and Scheer didn’t wait to find out, choosing instead to keep the chasm between China and Canada as wide as possible.

In a second case, following the RCMP arrest of two people in Kingston on terrorism-related charges, Scheer said it’s “clear that Canada’s refugee screening process needs to be seriously examined.” One person, a minor, remains in RCMP custody. The second person, a Syrian refugee, was not charged, has been released by the RCMP, and is to all appearances innocent.

We don’t know anything about the youth, because as a minor he cannot be identified. We can wonder, however, what enhanced refugee screening would have revealed about a teenager. More to the point, in cases like this, it is more common for youth to be radicalized in their new country. Refugee screening would have done nothing to prevent this.

But all of this is moot because Scheer didn’t even wait for the dust to settle to speak as though he already knew the outcome of the investigation.

In both cases, Scheer is taking the unthinking and  irresponsible route in an effort to attract attention and gain media clicks. In doing so he is debasing not only his own party but conservatism in Canada in general. And he is making the re-election of Justin Trudeau more likely, not less.