By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – The surprising electoral loss of British Columbia’s New Democrats this week should…
VANCOUVER – The surprising electoral loss of British Columbia’s New Democrats this week should not trigger a leadership race, the party’s president said Wednesday as Leader Adrian Dix remained behind closed doors.
Moe Sihota said there were many factors in the electoral upset that saw the heavily favoured New Democrats lose ground in the legislature to the incumbent Liberals, and a “revolving door” on the leader’s office is not the solution.
“I think it’s fair to say that neither us nor the Liberals really expected the result that transpired,” Sihota said.
The former New Democrat cabinet minister said there have not been calls within the party for Dix to step down as leader. It was a team effort, and the entire team will be looking at the campaign, he said.
“We don’t have an 801 Club in the party,” he said, referring to media reports in the days prior to the election, when the Liberal were trailing in polls, that a small contingent of Liberals planned to call for Clark’s resignation at 8:01 p.m. on election night — one minute after the party lost the election.
“I think that the challenges that we face are deeper and different, and we need to reflect on the totality of those.
“It’s not simply a matter of saying let’s replace the leader and away you go.”
Two years ago Dix took the helm after Carole James was pushed out in a party revolt.
Despite an expensive 28-day election campaign, NDP coffers could accommodate a leadership race but that is not what is needed, Sihota said.
A variety of factors were in play in the vote Tuesday, Sihota said, including complacency among party supporters.
“People just thought we were going to win and didn’t come out and vote,” Sihota said. “And, to a lesser degree, I think the split with the Greens was a variable. But, again, more than anything else, I think both us and the Liberals underestimated the potency of the argument of fear.”
The New Democrats were reduced to 33 seats, from the 36 they held before the campaign began. The Liberal gained five seats, to hold 50 or the 85 ridings in B.C.
There has been speculation that Dix’s decision to oppose Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline, in addition to opposing the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, alienated working-class voters.
But Sihota said the New Democrats have dealt for decades with the challenge of representing both green- and blue-collar supporters.
“All of the empirical evidence — in terms of polling data, in terms of what you were hearing from candidates, in terms of what you were hearing from campaign managers, in terms of what you were hearing from voters on the doorsteps — suggested that it did not displace our lead in the polls,” he said.
George Heyman, a newly minted New Democrat MLA who has served as executive director of the Sierra Club BC and president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, said he doesn’t believe labour supporters stayed home on election day.
And he said Dix has his support to remain as leader.
“I did leave him a voice mail in which I told him how proud I was of the campaign he ran, the positive campaign, and the very clear policies that he put forward that I thought could be a great benefit to British Columbians,” Heyman said.
“I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Just what did cause the lead in the polls to disappear in the ballot box is a question that red-faced pollsters, politicians and pundits alike are struggling to comprehend.
The “perplexing” truth is that the negative campaign of the Liberals was more effective than the positive campaign of the New Democrats, Sihota said.
“We definitely embarked upon a non-conventional approach to politics and it didn’t yield the result that we expected, and yet everything was telling you that it was — until election day.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:34 PM - 0 Comments
‘Clearly we missed some of it pretty badly’
For pollsters, the B.C. election was a cock-up of epic proportions.
Today, some offered mea culpas.
“This is a blow to the industry,” said Steve Mossop, president of Insights West.
“Clearly we missed some of it pretty badly,” said Ekos Research Associates vice-president, Frank Graves.
But others are digging in their heels.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 4:04 PM - 0 Comments
“No more Mr. Nice Guy’ – The “positive campaign” as a strategy in the face of relentless attacks does not work, especially when the ballot question winds up being leadership. Everyone remembers the 2012 Obama campaign as positive, but seems to forget that a brutal series of negative ads against Mitt Romney six months earlier paved the way for their positive end-game. Voters (especially women) might tell focus groups ahead of time that they don’t like negative attacks and prefer positive campaign ads, but that feedback is given in isolation from exposure to the other campaign. Once you get into an election period, with the two main campaigns running in parallel, if one campaign is constantly attacking you, turning the other cheek looks wimpy…
“Anger is better than love, and fear works better than hope” – In the chaotic and frenzied info-saturated world electoral campaigns now have to function within, strong negative emotions repeated endlessly cut through the clutter if they’re not answered better with strong communications and marketing. The BC Liberal campaign was able to change the ballot question for enough people from ‘time for a change’ to ‘fear of weak leadership’, while the hopeful kids who wanted ‘change for the better’ did not seem to feel it necessary to vote.
And then there are the kids these days…
“The lessons are different for right and left” – Conservative parties received confirmation last night that they are right to stay in their own bubble and mistrust the ‘analysis’ coming from the policy wonks in the media (or, evidently, me). They learned that they can speak to their core supporters, who have very different demographics and values, and ignore everyone else. Ranking the BC ridings by turnout shows the older, wealthier ridings near 60% turnout, and the less-well-off, younger ridings down in the low 40s. The turnout bonus for conservative parties is apparently accelerating, as well, going from a 3- or 4-point gap in the 2011 federal race to a 10-point gap last night in BC. Ten ridings were decided by less than 3.7% of the vote, and while under BC elections law there are six kinds of absentee ballots that won’t be counted until May 27 which could conceivably change the outcome in several of those seats, it was not closeness of the race but turnout that was decisive in explaining last night’s historic upset. If the traditional demographic bases of support for progressive parties do not vote in sufficient numbers, they will become increasingly powerless to effect other changes in their society.
The federal New Democrats and Liberals might have plans that don’t include attracting a large number of young voters, but their respective causes likely become easier to realize if either wins the strong support of those under the age of 30 and, importantly, if that age group votes in significant numbers. Barack Obama narrowly lost the vote to Mitt Romney among voters over the age of 30, but he won 60% of the vote among those under the age of 30. And voters between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 19% of the American electorate in 2012.
I can’t find directly comparable numbers, but Elections Canada has estimated that voters between the ages of 18 and 34 accounted for 20% of the Canadian electorate in the 2011 election. Votes among those 18 to 24 were estimated to be up slightly from 2008, but both the 18-to-24 group and the 25-to-34 group voted at a rate below the national average.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:51 AM - 0 Comments
As Adrian Dix looks to return B.C. to the NDP, all eyes are on the most important provincial election in years
Two days define Adrian Dix. They shattered the careful world the B.C. politico had built around himself, shone a light on his imperfections, leaving him bruised, but also humbled, more disciplined. For better or worse, the person he is today—B.C.’s next premier, if polls translate to votes on May 14—was shaped in their aftermath.
The first, Nov. 25, 1992, came four days before the Seattle Marathon. Dix, then a 28-year-old top aide to former premier Glen Clark was planning to run it for the first time. He’d “never been fitter in his life,” he says. But something was amiss. He couldn’t keep weight on, no matter what he did. After skipping his afternoon run, Clark asked what was up. “I drank too much,” Dix replied, something Clark found even stranger. His shy, geekish, young staffer—known around Victoria as a workhorse with razor-sharp intelligence—was basically a teetotaller. But Dix was talking about apple juice, not booze.
Doctors, the next day, told him why he was suddenly so lethargic, and thirsty. He’d developed Type 1 diabetes, known as juvenile diabetes.
The diagnosis forced some immediate changes—“not all bad,” concedes Dix, now 48, seemingly poised to return B.C. to the New Democrats after more than a decade of Liberal rule. His erratic eating habits and hard-charged schedule had to go as he learned to manage the disease with four daily injections. Still, his hands shake when he speaks, which is sometimes mistaken for shyness. His weakest point of the day, the early afternoon, coincides with question period, precisely when he needs to be at his sharpest.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
The British Columbia New Democrats are proposing new rules for government advertising.
Dix said if elected in the general election scheduled for May, the NDP would bring in legislation in the first session to prohibit government ads showing the name, voice or image of the premier or cabinet members. Modelled after what’s already in place in Ontario, the legislation would require the independent office of the auditor general to review and approve all government advertising.
“I think people ask the fair and legitimate question: How can you guarantee that?” Dix said at a news conference outside on the seawall to the north of Science World. “Here’s how we guarantee it: We intend to introduce legislation to ensure that every ad run by government — meaning television, radio, print, online — is reviewed by the auditor general to make sure it meets that standard of government advertising.” Dix said legislation would also prohibit all non-essential government advertising four months before a scheduled general election. “These rules …. would satisfy and demonstrate our seriousness in banning partisan advertising with public funds,” he said.
We noted the Ontario example in November. In the realm of democratic reform and accountability (and perhaps fiscal restraint), this strikes me as an easy proposal for an opposition party to make—is there really any argument to be made against submitting government advertising to these kind of restrictions?—at least so long as it was willing to limit itself once in government.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 4:37 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader’s tie was a combination of black, grey and orange stripes. This was possibly coincidental, but the placard propped up on an easel behind him followed the same colour pattern: “Leaders Summit 2013″ emblazoned beneath three maple leaves, one black, one grey and one orange.
Placards and colour coordination are the hallmarks of professionalism in modern politics. Rarely does the Prime Minister appear anywhere without a blue sign hanging in front of him on which is written the two or three words that we are supposed to commit to our subconscious that day. (In Mr. Harper’s ideal world the first words that would come to mind upon seeing his face or hearing his voice would be “jobs,” growth” and “long-term prosperity.”) The New Democrats have picked up on this trick and now have their own placards. Today’s was more of a sign, as if to demonstrate that here was an important thing happening—please note that what is going on beyond this sign and behind those doors is of such a serious nature that a sign is required to indicate as much.
The gathering in this case—the nation’s provincial and federal NDP leaders meeting on Parliament Hill to ruminate and be seen to be ruminating —was some combination of a first ministers’ conference and a corporate retreat.
“The NDP is very proud of its track record of prudent public administration in the five provinces and the territory where it has been in power. And that’s what we’re going to be doing today. Sharing best practices. Looking at the best way forward. Sharing ideas for the future of Canada based on better cooperation between the provinces and the federal government.”
Prudent public administration and sharing best practices: Mr. Mulcair seems to like to talk like this. It is possibly helpful for the purposes of not sounding like a hippy socialist who will spend the entirety of the defence budget on fair trade espresso beans for his friends in the union. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 4:44 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber questions Christy Clark’s position on the Northern Gateway pipeline.
If she truly believes that the possible risks of a pipeline outweigh the $6B in proposed benefits, than she should oppose it unequivocally. That is the apparent position of the BC Opposition Leader Adrian Dix; a position shared by federal NDP Opposition Environmental Critic, Megan Leslie. They oppose the Northern Gateway Project full stop. I disagree with their position but at least I respect them for taking an unequivocal position and having the courage of their conviction to stand by it.
That is quite different from the position of the BC Premier. She apparently has environmental concerns. Fair enough, but she has publically stated that for enough money or BC’s “fair share”, she will give the project her blessing. The BC Premier is stating that her supposed concern for the environment has an undisclosed price tag. I am being kind when I call her position “disingenuous”.
Ms. Clark, meanwhile, wants “Alberta and Canada to come to the table and sit down with British Columbia and work to figure out how we can resolve this.”
By Paul Wells - Friday, July 13, 2012 at 3:39 PM - 0 Comments
Time to change the agenda–again?
What if the major policy initiative of Stephen Harper’s majority mandate is a non-starter?
This will take some explaining. Let’s begin with a pop quiz. You’re in charge of a big pipe that carries liquid a long distance. One day you notice the pressure inside the pipe is dropping. What on Earth could be making the pressure in your pipe fall?
If it takes you less than 17 hours to answer, “hole in the pipe,” then you would have been much too clever to work for Enbridge in July 2010, when more than three million litres of diluted bitumen gushed out of that company’s pipeline and into the wetlands and rivers near Marshall, Mich. That’s an amount of ethical oil roughly equivalent to the amount of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The oil kept spilling for 17 hours after the initial alarm. By Enbridge’s own rules, the response to a pressure drop should have been to shut the line down until the cause was known, but, you know, whoopsie.
By Adam Goldenberg - Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 3:15 PM - 0 Comments
Never heard of the Sherbrooke Declaration? You’re not alone.
Adam Goldenberg is a J.D. Candidate at Yale Law School and was chief speechwriter to Michael Ignatieff.
“Paging Dr. Dix,” B.C. Premier Christy Clark told a fundraising dinner in Vancouver last week. “You’re trying to cure a disease that doesn’t exist. And the medicine might just end up killing the patient.”
The disease, of course, is Dutch, and the politics are simple. By pitting natural resources against manufacturing, the federal NDP has hamstrung its brothers and sisters in the West, and handed the centre-right governments of B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan a misstep to build a dream on. Our oil, gas, potash, and uranium pay for our schools and hospitals, they say—and cheap daycare in Quebec, too.
“I know it’s my job to fight for families,” Ms. Clark thundered on Tuesday. “Not in Quebec, but families right here in British Columbia.” One thing is sure: B.C. families can get used to hearing that line.
Unlike the Liberals or the Conservatives, the NDP’s provincial and federal wings are one and the same; in B.C., Adrian Dix’s party is also Thomas Mulcair’s. And so, after Mr. Mulcair mused about “Dutch disease,” it fell to Mr. Dix to plug the hole in the dike. He chose not to, and has instead refused publicly to condemn his federal boss, which may be for the best—his private thoughts are probably too coarse to print.
But though Mr. Mulcair’s message on the economy is most troublesome for his Western co-partisans, another NDP policy is a more serious liability under the law: the Sherbrooke Declaration.
Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Few NDP policies have been less publicized in English Canada. Adopted in 2005, the policy document was part and parcel of the NDP’s mating dance with Quebec. “The NDP would recognize a majority decision (50 per cent + 1) of the Quebec people in the event of a referendum,” it states. “The NDP recognizes as well that the right to self-determination implies that the [Quebec National Assembly] is able to write a referendum question and that the citizens of Quebec are able to answer it freely.”
For the NDP, the Sherbrooke Declaration represented a major, if unheralded, change of heart. Five years earlier, NDP MPs had voted to support Jean Chrétien’s Clarity Act, federal legislation that grants Parliament the power to decide whether a referendum question—and a potential “yes” majority—are sufficiently clear to give the Quebec government a mandate to negotiate secession.
Despite the Sherbrooke Declaration—and his own past opposition—NDP leader Jack Layton pledged his support for the Clarity Act during the 2006 election campaign. By 2011, as legions of former Bloc Québécois supporters turned orange, the Sherbrooke Declaration was back, just below the surface. And earlier this year, Mr. Mulcair made it official: “Democracy is 50 percent plus one,” he told Reuters. “Period. Full stop. That’s it.”
Is it? The Supreme Court, in its 1998 decision in Reference re Secession of Quebec, ruled otherwise. “Democracy,” it held, “means more than simple majority rule.” In the Court’s words, only “a clear majority vote in Quebec on a clear question in favour of secession would confer democratic legitimacy on the secession initiative.” And just what constitutes a “clear majority?” The Court was coy: “It will be for the political actors to determine what constitutes ‘a clear majority on a clear question.’”
Under Mr. Mulcair, the NDP has decided that a majority need only be simple to be clear, and that Quebec alone may judge the clarity of the question. Never mind that Parliament has written nearly the opposite into law.
And so we return to the unfortunate Mr. Dix. He will be, if today’s polls hold true, the next Premier of B.C., and he will lead a governing party that opposes the formula for secession devised by the Supreme Court of Canada and enacted by Parliament. Would a Dix government accept a simple majority vote as sufficient to begin breaking up the country? Given his unquestioning acquiescence to Mr. Mulcair’s other policy positions—most recently resource development—the answer would seem to be yes. And in the event of a referendum, Victoria’s position would be anything but irrelevant; according to the Supreme Court, a “clear majority on a clear question” would give Quebec a mandate to negotiate secession, which “all of the other participants in Confederation would have to recognize.” That includes the Government of B.C.
Unless and until Mr. Dix opens up some daylight between himself and his federal sibling, he runs the risk of handing Ms. Clark yet another rhetorical cudgel of Mr. Mulcair’s making, in an election campaign that’s otherwise Mr. Dix’s to lose. Sure, he can try to dodge questions about Quebec and Dutch disease—but if he does, he’ll be skating in wooden shoes.
Follow Adam Goldenberg at @adamgoldenberg.
Related Maclean’s links:
By Paul Wells - Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 10:01 AM - 0 Comments
With Danielle Smith stomping across Alberta in the boots of history (OK, lousy metaphor), Pauline Marois richly earning the most awkward political nickname in memory (she’s la dame du béton, the woman of concrete, but whatever: she seems on track to win 85 of 125 seats at the next election) and the British Columbia centre-right hopelessly divided, it’s time to ponder the mess Canada might be in in a year.
Or not. You know, polls are for dogs, these are tidings of Christmases which may be, not Christmases which must be, etc. etc. blah de frickin blah. But let’s pretend.
Smith is likely to be premier of Alberta in two weeks. This is in some ways the least problematic outcome for Stephen Harper, not just because Smith and Harper agree on most things but because Smith has shown no tendency to want to run against Ottawa. She was in Ottawa several weeks ago and delivered a perfect snoozer of a lunchtime speech. Which may even have been the goal.
But one of the things Smith and Harper agree on is that Enbridge good, oil sands good, Northern Gateway good. BC premier-in-waiting Adrian Dix is not so sure about any of that, and seems likely to get elected on a platform of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipelines to Kitimat. The Harper government is doing everything to get oil sands products to port at Kitimat, a question Joe Oliver called “an urgent matter of Canada’s national interest.” In the first place, I expect Harper to deploy rapidly-escalating feats of ingenuity to stop Dix in advance of a B.C. election, but if it doesn’t work, it’s reasonable to expect epic confrontations between Harper and a premier-elect Dix. Continue…