All posts tagged Liberal Party

Ontario election: OK, that didn’t really work … can we get back to being New Democrats now?

Ontario’s victorious Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne last summer. Below: Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

Well! That didn’t work out quite as well as we’d hoped, did it? Can we get back to being New Democrats now?

I speak, of course, of the results of last night’s Ontario provincial election – in which it seems to me from my vantage point out here on the Great Plains that there are lessons in the vote for New Democrats in the west and the New Democrats in Ottawa too.

I realize that the great Canadian tradition of punditry is for the pundit to spin his or her favoured party’s electoral defeat as really being a victory.

We’ll be seeing lots of that this morning, I expect, as Conservative partisans at the National Post, Sun News Network and like outfits explain why Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals’ decisive defeat last night of Tim Hudak’s Tea Party Conservatives, through the medium of an an NDP budget, really means Ontarians want more conservative government, and, what’s more, that it’s actually good news for Stephen Harper’s Reform Party Government in Ottawa.

Both those propositions are mostly baloney, of course, but that won’t stop them from being trotted out by the very same people who just days ago were warning Ontarians not to fail to elect Mr. Hudak’s destructive, dishonest, economically ignorant, anti-worker, fundamentally un-Canadian party just because it made up factoids, got caught lying about them, used the Koch Brothers’ economist to cook the numbers, and planned to start off by destroying 100,000 jobs. Naturally, they’ll also blame unions – as if union members shouldn’t have a right to vote.

Indeed, Mr. Hudak’s program was so egregiously bad that even the members of the Globe and Mail’s Tory-to-the-bone editorial board were set to endorse Ms. Wynne’s Liberals until someone in the Roy Thomson Room at corporate headquarters picked up the good, grey telephone and gave them their marching orders.

Of course, conservative pundits out here in the west, and that’s pretty well all of them, will be telling you the Ontario election is good news for Alberta because companies will move here now since this province is so well run. Don’t believe that either. We’re rich because we won the oil lottery. And we don’t want to share.

Not being a real paid pundit, though, I’m going to break with tradition and say that the Ontario New Democrats, the party I not-so-secretly lean toward, could have done a heck of a lot better last night if they’d only acted like New Democrats instead of pretending to be conservatives.

Agreed, last night wasn’t a rout for the NDP. They hung on to most of their voters, and shuffled the deck chairs to hold the same number of seats. Unlike Mr. Hudak, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath won’t have to resign in ignominy. As Tom Walkom of the Toronto Star put it, they’re merely back to Square One.

Still, surely they could have done better if they’d paid attention to the evidence that what the people of Ontario wanted was … a New Democratic Party government.

I’ve been thinking for months that the Ontario New Democrats really had a chance to win this one. After all, enough people in Ontario are genuinely progressive, plus it’s been long enough for them to forget the NDP government led by Bob Rae, and he’s a Liberal nowadays anyway. Polls suggested Ontario voters recognized the Liberals richly deserved to be punished for their myriad sins of the recent past. And Ontarians were smart enough to recognize that 11 years in power is too long for any party – Alberta! Ah-hem!

But they were obviously pretty hesitant to use the sadistic wreckers of the unprogressive Ontario Progressive Conservatives to punish the Liberals because they recognized that, like the Harper Government in Ottawa, it held democratic institutions in contempt and has been infected with the extremist virus that has taken control of the Republican Party south of the Medicine Line.

The phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face” springs to mind for using a party like Mr. Hudak’s to punish a party like Ms. Wynne’s. In other words, Ontario voters weren’t fools.

All the New Democrats really had to do to have a chance to win the government of Ontario, it’s said here, was act like New Democrats. For some reason, alas, Ms. Horwath decided to take another road, and by now we all know how that worked out.

So Ms. Horwath and her caucus voted down the budget that included a lot of what New Democrat voters pray for – infrastructure spending, public transit, pension improvements. This brought down the Liberal government, setting up last night’s less-than-optimum outcome from the NDP perspective.

Maybe just like generals are famously said to do, the NDP’s strategists were fighting the last war. Ontarians obviously decided that they’d rather have NDP policies than the NDP name with Conservative policies. Under the circumstances, it’s pretty hard not to agree with them.

Of course the knock against Liberals – entirely justified by history – is that they blink left and turn right. So we’ll see if Ms. Wynne keeps her promise and passes the budget the NDP helped defeat. And then there are the next couple of budgets after that, when Ontario will have to confront its $12.5-billion deficit.

And, yeah, the Liberals obviously persuaded quite a few NDP voters to change their votes by saying the Hudak Cons were scary. But they were scary! That’s the problem with the first-past-the-post system, which we’re probably stuck with, because if Canada adopted proportional representation we’d have progressive governments forever.

As for the so-called Conservatives, there’s a lesson for them here too – but they’re likely too far gone to take it. So many Canadians have had enough of their evil market-fundamentalist theology that they need to go back to being the kind of conservatives that actually conserve stuff worth keeping. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

For their part, Ontario’s Liberals need to recognize they got re-elected because voters wanted the policies they said they’d deliver. As a matter of fact, we’ve just watched this movie out here in Alberta, and it didn’t have a happy ending for the lead character.

Folks here were richly sick of the Progressive Conservatives in 2012, and rightly so, but they didn’t really want to elect a party that at the time sounded a lot like Mr. Hudak’s Conservatives. So they participated in the weird Alberta custom of joining the PCs for $5 and helping the governing party choose its leader, picking the apparently most progressive candidate of the lot. In addition, many progressive Albertans voted PC, instead of their traditional parties, because they were afraid of the only likely alternative.

It all turned out to be a dirty trick, though, and after two years with Alison Redford at the helm, this time it looks like they will be less susceptible to taking the same bait again.

We’ll see about that, I guess, but the advice from the Prairies to Ms. Wynne is to do what Ms. Redford should have done and govern like the progressive leader that electors voted for, not a Tim Hudak-Stephen Harper clone with delusions of grandeur.

But whatever the future holds, congratulations to Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals tonight. They certainly deserve it!

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Latest Calgary poll results – perhaps aided by party’s sophisticated moves – show Green Wave developing

Calgary Centre Greens get ready to surf the Green Wave, expected momentarily. Actual Green Party supporters may not be exactly as illustrated. Below: Chris Turner, Joan Crockatt and Naheed Nenshi.

The latest poll of residents of the Calgary Centre riding shows a Green Wave developing among opponents of the Conservative Party in the Nov. 26 federal by-election.

Organizers for Green Party candidate Chris Turner are taking a highly sophisticated approach to polling in the Calgary Centre by-election, tipping their supporters when they get wind of opinion polls in the riding and instructing them to be sure to pick up their phones and answer the questions.

Nothing wrong with this, of course – but it should serve as a warning to undecided voters and other observers, especially journalists, that the “narrative” candidates’ campaigns try to spin around small-sample polls like those being conducted in Calgary Centre can be easily manipulated by smart efforts to game the polling process.

In the case of the Calgary centre by-election, the narrative being developed by Mr. Turner’s supporters is that their candidate is the only one with momentum after he appeared unexpectedly in third place among respondents to a Nov. 12 poll of riding voters conducted by Forum Research Inc.

And it may well now be true, as Mr. Turner told the Globe and Mail yesterday after another Forum research poll appeared to confirm the results of the Nov. 12 survey, “we’ve got the momentum now. I know for sure we can win it. This is the most vulnerable Conservative campaign in Calgary in decades.”

The Nov. 12 poll showed Mr. Turner in a strong position to vault into the lead among the riding’s many voters who are opposed to front-running Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt. This would be an important consideration for strategic voters opposed to Ms. Crockatt and looking for the best candidate to whom to give their anti-Conservative vote.

The Nov. 12 Forum poll put Ms. Crockatt in the lead, barely, with 32 per cent of committed supporters. Liberal Harvey Locke was in second place with 30 per cent of those surveyed and Mr. Turner – at that time surprisingly – was in the key No. 3 spot with 23 per cent. NDP candidate Dan Meades had 12 per cent, according to that Forum survey.

The Forum Research poll released last night appeared to reinforce the narrative. In the survey conducted Saturday, Ms. Crockatt was back up a little at 35 per cent, but well below the 48 per cent she recorded in the first poll on Oct. 26. Mr. Locke was holding at 30 per cent. Mr. Turner had moved up again to 25 per cent. Mr. Meades’ support slipped to 8 per cent.

If this narrative sounds familiar to Alberta political observers, it ought to. It was exactly the strategy used to catapult Naheed Nenshi into the lead in the October 2010 Calgary municipal election and Alison Redford to victory in the 2011 Progressive Conservative leadership race. Both really got on the radar when a poll unexpectedly placed them in the No. 3 spot in their respective contests. Mr. Nenshi is now mayor of Calgary and Ms. Redford, of course, is the premier of Alberta.

It is likely no coincidence that many of the same people backing Mr. Turner were also involved in the Nenshi campaign, and possibly in the Redford campaign as well. Indeed, Mr. Nenshi stepped into the fray last week, slamming Ms. Crockatt for not showing up at some all-candidates’ forums.

So journalists and citizens interpreting the various Forum Research poll results ought to take note of the fact that the survey samples are very small – the Nov. 12 poll had only 376 respondents and the Nov. 17 poll had 403, which means that approximately four responses could move the level of support for any given candidate by a full percentage point.

Interactive voice response surveys like these Forum polls (which is pollster talk for robocall push-button polls) tend to have lower response rates than other polling methodologies, further increasing the impact of individual respondents.

After the Nov. 12 results, media quickly picked up on the fact Ms. Crockatt’s support appeared to be dramatically lower than it was on Oct. 26, when she recorded the backing of 48-per-cent of respondents. Journalists also quickly ran with the idea Mr. Turner was the candidate whose support was showing the most upward movement.

So it is significant – though impossible to criticize – that a Green Party organizer emailed committed supporters a note headed “There is another poll tonight – be sure to pick up,” not long before the latest survey.

“Word from Chris Turner’s Head Quarters is that another poll is being conducted at this very moment,” said the email from Green Party Volunteer Co-ordinator Natalie Odd to committed Turner supporters. “Please be sure to pick up any calls your receive this evening!”

The emails were followed up with phone calls to supporters, although the pollster actually appears to have called a day later than the party expected.

In addition to such emails and calls, Mr. Turner’s supporters posted similar messages on Facebook and some people distributed the call-display number the polling company was using.

As previously noted, there’s nothing wrong with this, any more than it would be wrong for a politician to encourage supporters to show up at all-candidates meetings and cheer loudly. Other campaigns may also be doing the same thing.

But as citizens we need to be aware that this method of polling can produce results that do not precisely reflect the true distribution of public support at the time the survey was taken. Furthermore, we would be naïve not to realize that poll results influence voter preferences during campaigns, especially among undecided voters pondering a strategic vote against a particular candidate.

Advance polls in the Calgary Centre by-election are scheduled to open today.

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Can Canada’s Conservatives truly become our ‘natural governing party’? Maybe

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tries just to stifle his worst instincts. Warning: Canadian prime ministers may not be exactly as illustrated. If you’re too young to get this, just don’t worry about it. It’s pretty obscure anyway. Below: Richard Nixon, back in the days when there was only a Commie under every bed. Mr. Harper as we’ve come to love him.

Just the other day, it was said by one of the usual suspects in one of the usual places that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada now sees itself as having inherited the mantle of the country’s “natural governing party” from the woebegone Liberals.

It is certainly true that this could happen if the dice roll the Conservatives’ way, as so far they have. But this potential outcome notwithstanding, the so-called Conservatives – who despite their honourable history are nowadays neither really conservative nor truly a national party – face considerable roadblocks to their great ambition.

Chief among these are the radical and intolerant nature of their own political base and their nearly complete lack of support in one of the key regions of the country. For despite having many more moderate supporters, they remain the party of the hate-filled, Internet trolling, union-hating, fear-mongering, gun-loving, homophobic, anti-abortion, loony right as well as of corporate greed, and they have little support in Quebec outside a few reconstituted separatists.

Consider the United States as an illustration of the fate that may await the Canadian Conservatives if they cannot overcome their baser nature and also build meaningful support in French-speaking Canada – both goals that are within the grasp of the party, but which will not come particularly easily to them.

In the U.S., Democratic Party President Barack Obama may very well be reelected – despite his profound lack of success on the economic front and his betrayal of his own key supporters on a wide range of issues.

Why? Simply because the Republican Party has forfeited its role in the modern era as America’s natural governing party, which it has enjoyed since the inception of Richard Nixon’s divisive but effective Southern Strategy in the late 1960s. It has done so by moving consistently to the right to the point where it is on the verge of becoming the Treason Party of the United States. All this the Republicans did to themselves without facing the danger of alienating voters in a part of the country that speaks another language, for the simple reason no such region exists – yet…

To a significant degree, Prime Minister Harper’s Tea Party of Canada still appeals most to essentially the same minority of voters, and managed to form a majority government by successfully keeping those supporters in check at the same time as it moved its policy platform back toward the middle. Add to that strategy a waning and still discredited Liberal Party and a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time NDP, and they were able to achieve their goal.

Having done so, however, the question is whether they can overcome the radicalism of their own core and the extremist instincts of Mr. Harper himself to really become a natural governing party. In other words, they need to get their trolls under control – and some of those trolls are pretty well placed!

The conundrum for the Conservatives is that to become the natural governing party, they need to be a moderate party that hews to the centre – even if they try to ease the centre to the right. But if they succeed at staying near the centre line, they risk losing their most loyal supporters – perhaps to a national version of Alberta’s Wildrose Alliance party, as indeed has happened once before.

One senses the PM understands this strategically, but can’t quite achieve it viscerally, in his gut. Indeed, for a vivid example of the PM’s own instincts at play, consider his warning yesterday in an on-line CBC retrospective on the 911 attacks that there may be an “Islamicist” in a suicide vest hiding under each of our beds. Please!

So, we shall see. If the Conservatives truly become the natural governing party, it may not as bad a thing as some of us fear. After all, they will have had to moderate their worst instincts to achieve that goal.

And if they don’t, well, there’s another party waiting in the wings – one with support in Quebec and fewer lunatic trolls among its fringes – almost ready to play that starring role.

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