By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 0 Comments
An exchange from QP last spring, a day before Stephen Woodworth’s motion was debated in the House.
Niki Ashton. Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister promised Canadians that he would not reopen the debate on abortion. Nevertheless, that is exactly what one of his Conservative members is going to do tomorrow in the House. Canadian women have been fighting for decades for this right. Why is the Prime Minister not speaking out loudly and clearly against what his own party is trying to do here in the House?
Rob Nicholson. Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows the rules with respect to private members’ bills. That bill will be debated as all other private members’ bills are debated in the House, in accordance with the rules of the House. I do not see why that should be a problem for the hon. member.
Niki Ashton. Mr. Speaker, during the election and in the House the Conservative government has said that it is not going to reopen the abortion debate, but that is exactly what it is doing in this very House. While other members have done this in the past, the Prime Minister has done something to stop it. This is not the case this time. He is saying one thing in the House while through the back door he is rolling back Canadian women’s rights. Will the Prime Minister stand in the House right now and tell his party that a woman’s right to choose in Canada in 2012 is not up for negotiation?
Rob Nicholson. Mr. Speaker, the government’s position has been very clear. Unlike the NDP, we do not muzzle our members as that party now does. The bill will be debated as all private members’ bills are debated.
The Justice Minister’s comments about muzzling and private members’ business are interesting in light of what has lately occurred with Mark Warawa. But Ms. Ashton’s complaints are worth parsing too. The implicit or explicit suggestion would seem to be that the Prime Minister is somehow responsible for his caucus and could have (should have?) done something to stop Motion 312 from coming forward. Or at least that the Prime Minister is accountable for what’s going on behind him.
Here is something Francoise Boivin said in a scrum earlier this year.
The Prime Minister said abortion is legal in Canada. I mean that was strong words … And he made promises during campaign. So there’s obviously a problem with the way he controls his caucus or it satisfies him because it satisfies some part of their supporters.
And here is what Ms. Ashton told the House when Mr. Woodworth’s motion was debated.
If the Prime Minister did not want a woman’s right to choose to be debated, we would not be here tonight.
Of course, an an entirely separate front, the New Democrats have mocked Conservative MPs as messengers of the PMO.
It’s easy to fall into circular logic here—the Prime Minister controls what his MPs say and do, so why isn’t he controlling MPs like Mark Warawa and Stephen Woodworth?—and from there it’s easy to fall into conspiracy theories. (See my interview with Brad Trost for some discussion of this). So it’s maybe worth sticking with a basic question: Should MPs be free to table bills or motions that do anything other than express full and complete support for unlimited access to abortion? (Or is access to abortion sacrosanct?)
The Conservatives would seem to have run into trouble now after attempting to say no (or at least, no more). But it is a question the opposition parties might be asked as well.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Niki Ashton’s riding and Martha Hall Findlay’s new hair
Liberal leadership fatigue syndrome?
With a federal Liberal leadership campaign happening at the same time as the Ontario Liberal leadership, some Liberals are worried about leadership fatigue syndrome setting in and the fact they would be going to the same troughs to raise funds. Federal Liberal leadership contender Martha Hall Findlay says she has encountered many people who have been inundated by robocalls asking for donations to the provincial leadership campaigns. However, Hall Findlay says all these campaigns are overall a good thing, because “you have a whole lot of people and a whole lot of engaged Liberals.”
She has decided to go for shorter hair for this leadership campaign, with the help of Ernesto Domanico at Salon Solis in Toronto. She says she has not had short hair in over 25 years and had a bit of a complex about it. Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau has also opted for shorter hair, prompting this from Hall Findlay: “I think he has gone shorter than I have.”
Former Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy, who ran in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership race, is currently running in the Ontario provincial race. A twist is that this time around Kennedy is being praised for his French, compared to all the other candidates. In 2006 he was often attacked for his poor French. He says his decision not to run again federally was because he wanted to be close to his children, who both go to French school in Toronto. He says being home with his 10-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter is what has helped improve his French. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:54 PM - 0 Comments
Mitchel Raphael celebrates the season with the Opposition
The NDP held their annual holiday party in the Hall of Honour. Great lighting, booze bars, an oyster bar and food stations were spread over the Hall and and adjoining meeting rooms. It was one of the best parties held on the Hill.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 5:01 AM - 0 Comments
A star-studded photo gallery by Mitchel Raphael
The 2012 Press Gallery Dinner was a night of glamour and mock awards.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 8:05 AM - 0 Comments
NDP MPs, staffers and friends gathered for Halloween at the NDP watering hole Brixton’s….
NDP MPs, staffers and friends gathered for Halloween at the NDP watering hole Brixton’s. Outfits included Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women,” Bev Oda sipping $16 OJ (albeit from a plastic container) and NDP MP Niki Ashton as Big Bird.
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, October 29, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
NDP MP Niki Ashton told Capital Diary her grey coat has had loads of…
NDP MP Niki Ashton told Capital Diary her grey coat has had loads of people asking whether she is an American Civil War soldier or is she getting ready to be in a production of The Nutcracker?
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 4:34 PM - 0 Comments
While the New Democrats continue to try to shame Conservative backbenchers—see Olivia Chow’s statement on Monday and Niki Ashton’s statement on Tuesday—the Conservatives have responded by finding new ways to lament for the prospect of a cap-and-trade system.
Kyle Seeback worried yesterday that the possibility of cap-and-trade would ruin the magic of winter. John Carmichael segued from marking the 20th anniversary of the Toronto Blue Jays’ first World Series championship to worrying that a cap-and-trade system would leave Canadians with less money to spend on baseball. And while wishing Thomas Mulcair a happy birthday, Jacques Gourde lamented that cap-and-trade would raise the price of birthday cakes.
(Is it possible that when John Baird, Jim Flaherty, Stephen Harper and Jim Prentice were advocating for cap-and-trade and a price on carbon, they were intending to ruin hot chocolate, baseball and birthdays? Is the hidden agenda finally revealed?)
Here again is everything you need to know about the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 11:06 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservatives didn’t want to open debate surrounding Bill M-312. MPs weighed in anyway
Rona Ambrose is the minister for status of women. She is also the new enemy of the Canadian pro-choice movement, because she voted in favour of M-312 last week, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s controversial motion that would allow for an all-party parliamentary committee to revisit the question of when exactly a human life begins (read: hopefully in the womb, not outside). The motion, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper voted against, was defeated in the House of Commons by a vote of 203 to 91. Critics have called Woodworth’s motion disingenuous; he didn’t officially reopen the abortion debate, they argue, but he tried to start a conversation that might have led us down that path. Lately, however, the question is less about Woodworth than it is about Ambrose: should a champion of women’s rights, especially the federal champion of women’s rights in Canada, be supportive of any legislation that could potentially bring abortion laws back to Canada? (In 1988, the Supreme Court struck them down.)
A lot of people think not. In particular, Ambrose has raised the ire of women’s groups and certain politicians, most notably the official Opposition. NDP MP Niki Ashton practically called for her resignation on the web (“time for a new minister,” she tweeted) and a number of online petitions followed suit—one of which, on the activist website avaaz.org, has more than 15,000 signatures. Janet Currie, a board member of the Canadian Women’s Health Network, told me last week the abortion debate “should no longer be in the public domain” and it’s “contradictory that a minister who’s supposed to be defending women’s rights” would try to reinstate it.
But things are not always as they seem. Ambrose has been fairly quiet in the wake of the backlash, but she did reveal, in less than 140 characters, her actual motivation for voting yes on M-312. “I have repeatedly raised concerns about discrimination of girls by sex-selection abortion,” she tweeted last week. “No law needed, but we need awareness!” In other words, Ambrose isn’t interested in legislating against a woman’s right to choose. Rather, she would like to have a discussion about the motive behind that choice, more specifically, the choice of aborting a fetus because it’s female. M-312 may have died last Wednesday, but it left something behind: the awkward reality that the reproductive rights feminists fight for are the same rights used to discriminate against female fetuses via sex-selective abortion.
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 11:32 AM - 0 Comments
Of duelling ribbons
Columnist Richard Gwyn… took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for
Of duelling ribbons
Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867—1891. The prize was awarded by the Writers’ Trust of Canada in the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier. At the reception, Laureen Harper predicted Gwyn would win. In 2008 she sat near political scientist Janice Gross Stein and said she would be Stein’s good luck charm. Stein took home the prize that year. Medals were also given to authors and politicians in attendance. Prize nominees had theirs on a silver and red ribbon, politicians had yellow ribbons and other writers wore green. Former Liberal leader and author Michael Ignatieff wore a green ribbon. He quipped, “Writers can drink and do anything we bloody well please. And say anything we please.” Ignatieff recently caused a ruckus over comments about Quebec separatism to the BBC. Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, were among the last to leave the party.
Top ministers, including Jim Flaherty, John Baird and Peter MacKay, were on hand at the Canadian Museum of Nature honouring Barrick Gold Corp.’s $1-million donation, which will help refurbish a popular travelling exhibit. In return, the museum’s prime reception space was renamed the Barrick Salon. The ceremony included a $1-million gold coin valued at more than five times its face value. The coin is owned by Barrick and will be on loan to the museum for a year. Attendees were told that under no circumstances could they touch the coin. Then Barrick chairman Peter Munk put his hands all over it. He said, “I wanted to see if it would rub off.” The RCMP guards confessed that Munk was an exception and added that if former PM Brian Mulroney, also a guest, wanted to touch it they likely would not have stopped him.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 7:39 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly before 5:30pm, Stephen Woodworth was on his feet from the back row. Close around him sat eight other Conservative MPs.
“Motion 312,” he said, “simply calls for a study of the evidence of when a child becomes a human being.”
He wondered aloud what opponents of his proposal had to fear. Staring directly at the dozen NDP MPs seated across the way he called on them to hear the evidence.
Fourteen spectators watched and listened from the south gallery. Four Liberals joined the New Democrats on the opposition side of the House. The Conservatives numbered somewhere in the neighbourhood of 24.
Mr. Woodworth spoke loudly and gesticulated dramatically, as if addressing the nation at a moment of great significance. He invoked rights and humanity and science and parliamentary duty and he damned a “dishonest law.” When he was done, a dozen Conservatives applauded. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 2:02 AM - 0 Comments
Yesterday, Pro-Choice protesters came to the Hill. They were angered at Conservative MP…
Yesterday, Pro-Choice protesters came to the Hill. They were angered at Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s private member’s motion to examine if a fetus is a human being. The motion is being introduced today.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
Here again is the roster for Thomas Mulcair’s shadow cabinet. What to make of it? Here are several observations.
-First, the obviously big promotions go to Megan Leslie (who stays with environment, but becomes a deputy leader) and Nathan Cullen (who becomes House leader). Both are confident, impressive, fresh-faced MPs who are quick on their feet and under the age of 40 (Mr. Cullen’s 40th birthday is in July). Very interesting to see them put not just in prominent positions, but positions of leadership. Your premature, baseless, futile, wild-eyed “next leader of the NDP” speculation probably starts somewhere here.
-That’s a rather large number of people with titles: 78 out of a caucus of 102. Granted, the Conservative cabinet numbers 39 and the Prime Minister named another 28 parliamentary secretaries, so the sides are somewhat close to even. Put the two teams together and they represent just less than half of the House.
-The shadow ministers of finance, justice, human resources, transport, aboriginal affairs, public works, industry, immigration and the environment—nine of the top files—are women.
-All of the elected leadership candidates—Niki Ashton, Paul Dewar, Mr. Cullen, Robert Chisholm, Romeo Saganash and Peggy Nash—were placed in prominent spots. Of the 13 NDP MPs who endorsed Brian Topp, 10 of them—Charmaine Borg, Jean Crowder, Libby Davies, Chris Charlton, Yvon Godin, Francoise Boivin, Jinny Simms, Jasbir Sandhu, Kennedy Stewart and Alexandre Boulerice—were put in critic roles. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:09 AM - 0 Comments
It’s easy to remain neutral when you don’t know who you are voting for
New leader, old pic
The photo of newly elected NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair that appeared on the NDP leadership convention screens and the flyer for his after-party is the same one he’s been using since his 2007 by-election win. One Mulcair campaign worker said the new leader actually hates the picture and is tired of seeing it. Mulcair hired Kumpa’nia, a drumming band from Montreal, for the convention. The group drummed him in with the Cuban song Comparsa, chosen “because it’s groovy,” said one drummer. To help kill time between votes, Mulcair supporters used several of his signs to build a model of 24 Sussex Dr., much to his delight. One young Brian Topp supporter built a Topp restaurant out of the candidate’s materials, with a walk-up window but no drive-through.
The button factor
Some people did not make up their minds until the first day of the convention. MP Mylène Freeman said, “It’s easy to remain neutral when you don’t know who you are voting for.” Before the final vote, Freeman had a Mulcair button, which pleased her boyfriend, David DesBaillets, a volunteer on Muclair’s campaign. One delegate, Rob Shostak, quipped that he had a few specific criteria in terms of swaying his vote: candidates had to be bilingual, which he says eliminated Paul Dewar, and they had to have a button at the convention, which eliminated Niki Ashton. Bonus points went to Peggy Nash for having the biggest button.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 10:26 AM - 0 Comments
By virtue of first ballot results, Niki Ashton has been eliminated. Martin Singh has dropped out, having already identified Thomas Mulcair as his second choice. Paul Dewar has dropped out, but without directing his supporters how to vote. That leaves four for the second ballot: Mr. Mulcair, Brian Topp, Nathan Cullen and Peggy Nash.
Two of Mr. Dewar’s endorsers, Claude Gravelle and Charlie Angus, have thrown their support behind Mr. Mulcair.
By John Geddes - Friday, March 23, 2012 at 2:04 PM - 0 Comments
1. B.C. MP Nathan Cullen went first at the NDP convention’s afternoon showcase for leadership contenders. This was, I would say, unfortunate for most of the rest of the field. Cullen is arguably the most natural performer of the bunch. True to form, he was energized and upbeat.
Some will be surprised by Cullen’s decision to start out on a
strictlysomewhat (comments caught me showing my central Canadian bias) regional issue—his opposition to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would cut through his riding. (Check out Paul Wells for the oil-and-politics context.) But this might well have been a smart move—reminding British Columbia’s 39,000 NDP members, close to a third of those eligible to vote for the late Jack Layton’s successor, where he hails from.
On his controversial proposal for NDP cooperation with Liberals and Greens in ridings held by the Conservatives, Cullen promised an “open, democratic” conversation on the matter. “There are some that like it and there are some that don’t, and that’s cool,” he said. To my ear, that was too light a touch for a pretty weighty proposal.
2. Ottawa MP Paul Dewar just exited the stage. Unlike Cullen’s solo show, Dewar started out with a bunch of endorsements and a longish video presentation. In the Youtube era, that seems to me like the sort of stuff you go online for; when you show up at a convention, you want to see flesh-and-blood politicians up there sweating.
Once Dewar stepped to the podium, though, he wasn’t half bad. He unabashedly invoked Jack Layton repeatedly (odd to hear the Toronto Convention Centre’s south building called “the House that Jack Built,” but we took his drift). He dismissed the rifts that have largely defined the race, without naming names, as irrelevant. It’s not about left (Topp) or right (Mulcair), Dewar said, or about cooperating with other parties (Cullen). “It’s about the real majority of Canadians who have been left out by the Conservatives,” Dewar said.
Dewar’s core message sounded full of anxiety about the party’s future. “We won’t win the trust of Canadians by throwing our principles aside,” he said. Which makes you wonder, is there a risk of that abandonment? “We may have lost Jack,” he added even more darkly, “but we must not lose our way.”
3. Brian Topp, backroom boy turned leadership aspirant, started out by showing his polished video, narrated by Gordon Pinsent, no less. It ended with a stable of NDP luminaries—Ed Broadbent, Roy Romanow, the whole bunch—looking resolutely into the camera and intoning, “He’s ready.”
It hasn’t always seemed to be so. Topp was uninspiring for much of this race, picking up steam only lately. It’s not clear how many NDPers who took in the early word that he was stiff caught wind of his more comfortable stretch-run performance. He might have benefited from lowish expectations among some delegates when he took the podium this afternoon and seemed instantly at ease there.
“I’m a proud New Democrat,” Topp said, “and an unapologetic social democrat.” In case you missed it, that last part was a jab at Tom Mulcair, whose detractors say the former provincial Liberal cabinet minister isn’t a real man of the left. But Topp was also careful not to leave the impression that he might somehow be, by comparison, a risky left-wing choice, framing his approach “one practical step at time.”
4. Manitoba MP Niki Ashton won’t be posting big numbers when the first ballot is tallied tomorrow morning. At 29, though, Ashton should be interesting the voice of audaciously ambitious youth in the race. But her speech just now sounded, to me at least, entirely within the safest zone of traditional NDP thinking.
If she represents the next wave of New Democrats, they sound a lot to me like their elders. “I am proud to be part of the Jack Layton generation,” she said. A warm sentiment, but Layton imbibed the ideas that grounded him in politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Ashton even resorted to a retro slogan—“Liberal, Tory, same old story.” She lamented income inequality, the erosion of collective bargaining rights, corporate tax cuts. No doubt these preoccupations are perennials in the party. But shouldn’t a candidate not yet 30 bring something novel, even controversial, to a leadership debate?
5. On Montréal MP Thomas Mulcair’s performance, a bit first on convention craft. Mulcair entered with his cheering section entered from the back of the hall behind a troop of drummers, moving slowly. You could feel the vibrations coming up through the floor. You don’t get that from a video. And you can’t replicate the experience online.
Unfortunately, the effective setup obviously took longer than planned, leaving Mulcair rushing at an auctioneer-like verbal pace to get his speech out in the allowed total time for the entire presentation of 20 minutes. After that, his microphone would have been cut off. Reading so fast robbed him of the chance to use what is, I would argue, one of Mulcair’s underrated assets—that mellifluous voice of his, which sounded far better in the video part of his show.
What came across despite the haste? This line: “My only adversary sits across from me in the House of Commons.” Mulcair was making two points here: that his much-discussed rivalry with Topp isn’t his ultimate battle, and, by the way, he sits in the House while Topp has never been an MP. He also alluded to his victory in Quebec as a provincial Liberal, of all things, over the Parti Quebecois. “We won there and we’re going to win here,” Mulcair said, raising the question of how the word “we” is understood at this NDP gathering.
6. Toronto MP Peggy Nash’s fate was worse by far than the mere rushed delivery of Mulcair. He pre-speech presentation went way too long, leaving her without nearly enough time to get through her prepared speech. From the media area, we would see her text, up on the big teleprompter screens, scrolling rapidly, apparently as someone on her team tried to get her to jump ahead.
She didn’t catch on, improvising at points, then reverting to the text. In the end the convention organizers gave her perhaps a minute of extra time, then turned on the music, cutting her short. “So never ever underestimate the determination and the tenacity of a woman leader…” she was saying as the music drowned her out.
It would seem churlish to focus only on the abrupt end, but no doubt many NDPers will. Thus, this might be an appropriate time to remember that most New Democrats who plan to cast their ballots already have: 55,659 (as my colleague Aaron Wherry reports here), at least 60 to 70 per cent of the likely final vote. So Nash can take solace from the fact that her more than respectable campaign will matter more than what just transpired.
7. Nova Scotia pharmacist Martin Singh is surely the oddest choice on the ballot, in that he’s never stood for public office. By comparison, Ashton is seasoned veteran.
Yet it fell to Singh, of all candidates, to be the first to invoke NDP icon Tommy Douglas, whose name is typically dropped with great regularity at any NDP gathering. (Layton has now supplanted him.) Singh cited “Tommy” as an inspiration in his guise as the sainted father of universal medical insurance.
Overall, Singh’s delivery was rousing in an old-timey way. Nothing wrong with that. However, his lack of any credentials whatsoever for the leadership of any party makes his candidacy strange at best. At worst, he will be seen bringing a block of South Asian votes to Mulcair, whom he’s picked as his second choice, which is an awkward sort of political gambit whenever it happens.
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 11:49 AM - 0 Comments
A shoeless MP, the Senatrix Martini, and a meeting with Celine Dion
Raitt ditches her heels
A snap vote to attempt to delay the Conservatives’ controversial omnibus crime bill saw MPs racing to make it into the House of Commons last week. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney got in seconds after the warning bells stopped. Labour Minister Lisa Raitt whisked in just before him, but she’d had to remove her high-heeled shoes as she bolted down the staircase to make it to the chamber on time.
The Senatrix martini
MPs from all parties packed a reception hosted by Canada’s gay rights group Egale. The event was hosted by Tory Sen. Nancy Ruth. Before she addressed the boisterous crowd, the senator tried to quiet it, shouting, “Shut up!” This prompted Liberal MP Justin Trudeau to quip, “Shut the f–k up usually works better”—referring to what she famously told aid groups who protested against the Prime Minister’s refusal to fund abortions as part of its international maternal health initiative. If they didn’t, the senator suggested, they would face “more backlash” from the Tories. Egale had a juggling barman serving martinis, one called the “Senatrix,” named for Nancy Ruth, and another called the “Naked Whip.” Colourful platters included edible flowers, one of which was tasted by Toronto NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan. One gay Hill staffer, who used to be in the Prime Minister’s Office with Stephen Harper, told Capital Diary of the time the PM congratulated him on his same-sex marriage. Stephen Harper went on to make his dream come true when, on a trip, the Prime Minister surprised the staffer by pulling him aside and allowing him to meet Céline Dion, who he was preparing to greet.
At the reception, Egale told Capital Diary it is working with coroners to track gay suicide deaths. In Saskatchewan, it is involved with the province to train police officers about LGBT issues, and in Newfoundland it is co-operating with the government to provide anti-homophobia resources in classrooms.
Why robocalls aren’t popular in the Arctic
NDP MP Dennis Bevington said in the 2008 election he used robocalls to send messages to voters in his Western Arctic riding. He hasn’t used them since. The problem, he says, was the response from constituents. They kept telling him: “Hey, I tried to say something to you but all you did was keep talking and talking. I couldn’t get a word in.”
The perfect campaign jacket
NDP leadership candidates have been fanning across the country as their March 23-24 convention, and the vote for Jack Layton’s replacement, nears. Few are in Ottawa, but last week Niki Ashton made a short return to the capital, turning heads in a bright orange coat she’s dubbed her “campaign jacket.” Ashton says the coat was strategic because she needed something for outdoor photo-ops in wet and cold weather. She says the coat has been perfect in all of Canada except when she is back in her home riding of Churchill in Manitoba. “Then I need my Canada Goose,” says Ashton.
Trying the robocall scandal dish
At the centre of the robocall scandal is the riding of Guelph, where there happens to be a food joint called Pierre’s Poutine. “Pierre Poutine,” of course, was the name used to set up a robocall account to target the riding. Frank Valeriote, the Liberal MP who represents the riding, says he’s never been there. Indeed, he only recently tried poutine for the first time, at the Royal Oak, an Ottawa pub. All the talk of “Pierre Poutine” got him thinking he needed to at least taste the stuff.
Down to floor space
As the hype continues to build for the Calgary Stampede’s 100th anniversary in July, so do the requests by friends to Calgary MP Lee Richardson to crash at his place. “I keep saying yes,” says the Tory MP. The problem is he’s getting set to demolish his house, and during the Stampede he’ll be renting a smaller one. Book now with Richardson for Stampede 2013.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 8:28 PM - 0 Comments
Althia Raj surveys the post-debate discussion.
After the debate, the candidates said they were unsatisfied with Mulcair’s answers. Mulcair hadn’t been “clear” enough Topp said, while Dewar stated the Quebec MP hadn’t provided “enough detail.” “These aren’t just about superficial language or local issues, this is about the foundation of who we are,” Ashton said.
Nash, who told reporters she believes she will be on the final ballot with Mulcair on March 24, suggested he was holding a secret agenda. “I think that’s a fundamental question as a leadership candidate that he needs to answer, what direction is he taking the party, and I don’t think we got a clear response,” she said.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 2:49 PM - 0 Comments
4:21pm. Closing statements. Mr. Cullen goes for poetry, Ms. Nash is insistent, Mr. Dewar is emotional, Mr. Topp is aspirational, Mr. Mulcair is workmanlike. New Democrats have an incredibly difficult choice to make.
4:12pm. Mr. Cullen says Mr. Harper fears that the progressive majority will get its act together and defeat him. Interesting argument. I actually think Mr. Harper would prefer a two-party system. (P.S. Of course, that’s not exactly what Mr. Cullen is proposing.)
4:09pm. Mr. Cullen challenges Mr. Topp on making a distinction between pre- and post-election cooperation. Mr. Topp: “I’m adverse to strategies that won’t work.”
4:04pm. Mr. Dewar didn’t have an answer for Ms. Nash and he probably should have. Or at least I’d be interested to hear his response.
4:02pm. Have two opposition parties ever run a joint ad campaign against the governing party? Is there an example of this in England or any similar system?
3:58pm. The second pick-a-fight round. Paul Dewar notes that Peggy Nash is interested in “pooling” resources with other parties before an election. And yet, she opposes Nathan Cullen’s plan. Mr. Dewar seems to see a contradiction. Ms. Nash says she’s in favour of pooling resources with other parties if other parties want to campaign for proportional representation. But then she asks Mr. Dewar if he’d turn away the Liberals if they came to him and offered to pool resources towards an ad campaign against the Conservative crime bill. This is an interesting development.
3:56pm. On body language: Almost everything Thomas Mulcair talks about is situated just off to his right.
3:52pm. See, there’s actually a very interesting debate to be had about what the NDP is, where it is and what it needs to do towards 2015.
3:43pm. (The candidates are discussing immigration and economic policy, but I’d rather dwell upon the larger debate here). Mr. Mulcair has regularly referred to the party’s lack of a seat in Saskatchewan. It’s a glaring weakness, but is it an indication the party has been doing something wrong? In Mr. Layton’s four elections, the party’s popular vote in Saskatchewan went from 23.4% to 24% to 25.6% to 32.3%. The NDP had nearly four times the popular vote of the Liberals in Saskatchewan, but the Liberals have one seat and the NDP has zero. The NDP’s popular vote in the province in 2011 was six points higher than it was in the 2000 election, when the party won two seats. If the problem is that the party isn’t winning seats in Saskatchewan, isn’t the solution electoral reform? (Or at least redrawing the riding boundaries?)
3:36pm. So Mr. Mulcair’s position seems to that the party needs to do in every other province what it did in Quebec. What this means depends mightily, I suppose, on what you think happened in Quebec. If you think Jack Layton’s personal appeal is largely to credit for the NDP’s success in Quebec, it’s unclear what the NDP can do now to recreate that result elsewhere. Mr. Mulcair’s argument seems to be that the party’s gains can be explained by the party’s decision (as he demanded) to stop using the phrase “ordinary Canadians.”
3:34pm. Hmm. Nathan Cullen asks Martin Singh if Mr. Singh would like to apologize to Mr. Topp for his comments at previous debates. That’s… interesting.
3:32pm. Paul Dewar to Mr. Mulcair: It seems like you’re a little down on the party. How can you inspire people to vote for the party when you don’t seem inspired by the party? Mr. Mulcair again says the party has to continue on the path set by Mr. Layton, but it needs to do something different to win in Saskatchewan.
3:28pm. Niki Ashton to Mr. Mulcair: You haven’t been entirely clear on how you want to change the party. Is it about changing the rhetoric or changing the direction? Mr. Mulcair repeats that it’s about continuing to move forward and not go backward. And yet, he then says the party needs to do something different to win more seats in Western Canada. “Refresh our language” seems the closest he comes to saying what needs to happen.
3:23pm. Brian Topp challenges Mr. Mulcair on taxes and reengages this idea that Thomas Mulcair thinks “the party is the problem” (Mr. Topp’s words). Mr. Mulcair’s basic response it that it’s too early to promise the sorts of tax reforms that Mr. Topp is pursuing, that the next NDP leader would be better off waiting a few years and seeing what the books look like then.
3:20pm. Our first pick-a-fight round. Peggy Nash goes after Thomas Mulcair: What exactly is his vision of renewal? Mr. Mulcair says the party must reach out beyond its traditional base and continue moving forward. Ms. Nash presses him for specific changes he would make. Mr. Mulcair says he’d keep moving forward as the party did under Jack Layton.
3:13pm. How would the candidates engage young people? The correct answer seems obvious: promise to capture Kony.
3:11pm. Paul Dewar’s campaign slogan should be “Endearing.”
3:03pm. Niki Ashton: “We must not and cannot sacrifice our values.” Thomas Mulcair: “Reach out beyond our traditional base.” Nathan Cullen: “Unite progressives.” Brian Topp: “A real NDP government.” There’s the grand philosophical debate that everyone is dancing around. How does this party move forward? It depends to a certain extent, I think, on how you view Jack Layton’s legacy. Was he a pragmatist who leaned left or a leftist who preferred pragmatism?
3:01pm. And we’re off. Seven candidates. Two giant Canadian flags.
2:55pm. For the purposes of a pre-game show, consider this fascinating interview with Thomas Mulcair. Fascinating point #1: He rules out a coalition of any kind with the Liberals. Fascinating point #2: He says we should be intervening militarily in Syria.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 9, 2012 at 12:15 PM - 0 Comments
As part of our coverage of the NDP leadership, we’re running interviews with each of the candidates here at Macleans.ca. Previously, we chatted with Nathan Cullen, Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar. Next up, Niki Ashton. Ms. Ashton talked to our Gabriela Perdomo.
Q: You’re very young. Just 29-years-old. Why did you decide to run for the leadership? Why now? It’s certainly audacious.
A: [She laughs] Jack Layton taught us to believe in a new approach to leadership. I think we need to continue in that direction. My generation is at a crossroads, facing this old way of doing politics by the Harper government: the robocalls, the tactics to shut down debate in parliament. This disengages so many people. So I’m proud to be part of a generation that is looking ahead and wants to see a brighter future. Ultimately young people are the ones who pay the greatest costs when we do things the wrong way. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 10:14 AM - 0 Comments
In addition to a tally of overall caucus endorsements, I thought it might be worth breaking down where the incumbent NDP MPs have placed their support.
The NDP went into the last election with 36 MPs. One didn’t stand for reelection (Bill Siksay), two were subsequently defeated (Jim Maloway and Tony Martin) and Jack Layton passed away last August. The remaining 32 MPs who served in the last Parliament, only nine remain uncommitted, some of them having chosen to remain neutral.
The rest are either seeking the leadership or have endorsed a candidate and they line up as follows. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 2:47 PM - 0 Comments
4:30pm. And we’re done. Plenty there to dwell upon if the press gallery is so motivated. For instance: What precisely would Thomas Mulcair do differently? What specific policies or stances would he change or pursue? If Peggy Nash thinks the rich might pay more, why not say so now? If she’s worried about what the Conservatives will say, how will she ever address the issue? What are Brian Topp’s chances in Quebec? What does history and current polling tell us about his path to a seat? What does Paul Dewar mean by “issue-based campaigning? And how does he square that with his aversion to negative politics?
4:16pm. Closing arguments. In short. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 13, 2012 at 12:22 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Dewar’s campaign has released the results of an interactive voice response poll of 6,373 NDP members. The poll was conducted February 8 and 9, using the NDP membership list as of February 2. Respondents were provided with a list of candidates and asked for their first and second choices. For first choice, the results released for decided voters are as follows:
Thomas Mulcair 25.5%
Peggy Nash 16.8%
Paul Dewar 15.1%
Nathan Cullen 12.8%
Brian Topp 12.7%
Niki Ashton 9.5%
Martin Singh 4.1%
Romeo Saganash 3.6%
For second choice, the results released for decided voters are as follows:
Paul Dewar 21.2%
Peggy Nash 19.4%
Thomas Mulcair 16.7%
Nathan Cullen 14.4%
Brian Topp 12.4%
Niki Ashton 10.7%
Romeo Saganash 3.6%
Martin Singh 1.8%
In response, Raymond Guardia, campaign manager for Brian Topp, apparently sent the following note to his campaign staff today. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 1:39 PM - 0 Comments
3:15pm. Closing arguments. Mr. Mulcair: Common values, unity, reaching out, taking the Quebec success nationwide. Mr. Topp: Quebec values, the environment, peace, equality, winning. Ms. Nash: Peace and justice, yes to the environment, no to torture, inspire, bring together and unite. Mr. Dewar: Solidarity, peace, climate change, human rights, no to capital punishment. Mr. Cullen: I drank Caribou last night, these people are all great candidates, we need to think about the next steps, I’m not afraid of new ideas.
And that’s that. Handshakes, hugs and cheek kisses all round. I’ve no idea who won that. I suspect the consensus top four—Mulcair, Topp, Dewar, Nash—remains more or less in place, with perhaps some changes in order. It’ll be interesting to see what the Quebec press says about Mr. Dewar’s French.
3:11pm. Mr. Topp challenges Mr. Dewar on support for culture and protecting French artists on the Internet.
3:08pm. Mr. Mulcair asks Ms. Nash if she favours a seat for Quebec at UNESCO. Ms. Nash says yes. Does Mr. Mulcair figure he’s the frontrunner right now? Or is he conscious of the fact that he is sometimes reputed to be difficult to work with? Or both?
3:05pm. Mr. Cullen challenges Mr. Mulcair on working with other parties. Mr. Mulcair argues that NDP supporters want nothing to do with the Liberal party. Mr. Cullen tries again. Mr. Mulcair says the party needs to expand its base, but it needs to be clear with voters.
3:03pm. Ms. Ashton and Mr. Mulcair manage a slight disagreement on whether aid delivery needs its own department.
3:02pm. Mr. Dewar asks what Ms. Nash would do if Quebec introduces fees for health care. Ms. Nash says that’s a decision for Quebec.
2:59pm. A second pick-a-fight round. Ms. Nash challenges Mr. Topp on not having his seat: will he ask an MP to step down so that he can run in Quebec? Mr. Topp notes the last time party members picked a leader who didn’t have a seat (Jack Layton). Ms. Nash notes that Mr. Layton had experience as a politician. Mr. Topp notes that Ms. Nash has three years of experience as an MP and he’s got many years of experience working in an NDP government.
2:54pm. For whatever it’s worth, here is one assessment of the candidates’ skills en francais.
2:46pm. That was fun. A whole debate on taxes would be even more fun.
2:41pm. Mr. Dewar challenges Mr. Topp on not having a seat in Parliament. Mr. Topp dismisses the question and smacks Mr. Dewar for appointing a deputy leader already. Ms. Nash picks up this point and wonders why Mr. Dewar’s deputy leader (Charlie Angus) is another anglophone from Ontario. Ms. Nash suggests this disrespects francophone Quebeckers. Mr. Dewar defers to his “next 70″ plan, which apparently involves maintaining the party’s foothold in Quebec.
2:39pm. Mr. Topp challenges Mr. Mulcair on government revenues. Suggests he’s planning to fund government programs through environment policy, a la Stephane Dion. Mr. Topp makes aggressive hand gestures, challenges him to agree that it’s time to end the imbalance of the current tax system. Mr. Mulcair says you have to consider “other options” (cap-and-trade, tax havens).
2:35pm. I don’t think I quite caught what Niki Ashton thinks Paul Dewar has to retract. Mr. Mulcair invites Ms. Ashton to muse about how young people can contribute to foreign policy. And also what she would do to get more young people voting. That seemed a bit too easy.
2:32pm. Mr. Singh challenges Mr. Topp on how charities would be impacted by changes to capital gains exemptions. Mr. Topp says Mr. Singh should read his plan because that plan covers this. Mr. Singh is undeterred. Mr. Topp invites Mr. Singh to listen to his answers: that his plan takes charities into account.
2:29pm. The pick-a-fight round. The candidates are lectured on how to disagree. Mr. Cullen asks Ms. Nash how she plans to unify progressive voters. Ms. Nash dismisses any formal linkage with the Liberals. Mr. Cullen wonders why it’s okay to work with parties after an election, but not before. Ms. Nash says the party must remain “faithful” to its principles and “inspire” more people to vote for the NDP.
2:15pm. “As a Prime Minister what would you do to improve Canada’s international profile? And why would you be a better representative than the other candidates?” A greater commitment to fighting global climate change is the popular answer. Also: a renewed focus on peace and peacekeeping. This is where specific follow-ups would help. Would you sign a global climate pact that didn’t include China or the United States? What reduction targets would you set and how would you get Canada to that goal? What would you do about Iran? What about Syria? Did you support intervention in Libya?
2:03pm. Opening statements overly simplified: Paul Dewar worked in Central America. Brian Topp makes fun of Josee Verner. Nathan Cullen loves asymmetric federalism. Niki Ashton doesn’t like ideology and partisanship. Peggy Nash says Stephen Harper doesn’t represent Quebec. Martin Singh has business experience. Thomas Mulcair is from Quebec.
2:01pm. Could they not find anyone to fill out those seats behind the stage?
1:57pm. The official theme of this debate is “Canada on the world stage.” The real theme of this debate is “Can Paul Dewar speak French well enough to assuage concerns about his abilities in his second language?” I’m in no position to judge myself (I’ll be watching CPAC’s English feed). But francophone viewers are free to pass on their assessments.
We’ll be back shortly to commence the live-blog festivities.