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Jack Layton has Obama/Rae Syndrome

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Below is the text of an email I just sent to the Federal New Democratic Party of Canada in response to this statement by the party:

Statement on the vandalism in downtown Toronto by NDP Leader Jack Layton
Sun 27 Jun 2010

New Democrats tonight add their voices to all those calling for an end to the violence and vandalism taking place in downtown Toronto.

Peaceful and lawful protests are important in a democracy and help raise important issues. Torontonians have often marched and protested peacefully on these streets, with virtually no serious incidents.

And then I wrote:

I am currently living in the U.S. but am a Canadian citizen and when I live in Canada I am a New Democrat. At one time I was active at the riding, provincial/territorial and federal levels. I was a federal councilor for the Yukon 1n the 1980’s and a provincial candidate for the NDP in the 1990 Ontario election.

From where I sit, it looks as though the NDP is making a horrible mistake by not condemning the police violence in Toronto as well as the vandalism caused by a small number of protesters. Actually, given that the police have used agents provocateurs in the past, perhaps we should be careful when talking about who did what in the streets.

Perhaps public opinion can’t yet see the police violence or the fact that almost all of the demonstrators were peaceful. But the truth will out.

Remember how Tommy Douglas and the NDP opposed the War Measures Act in the face of public opinion and media criticism. What does Canada think of Tommy Douglas now?

The NDP should be very wary of making the same mistakes Bob Rae made when he alienated his base, as Barack Obama is doing now. Many NDP supporters are horrified by the actions of the police as well as the vandalism. Oh and by the way, breaking a window is wrong but it is worse to break a peaceful demonstrators head.

No matter the short term cost, do the right thing and political rewards will one day follow.

Written by slothropia

June 28th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Toronto Cops Following Miami Model

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Thanks to a poster on Babble who alerted me to this piece by columnist Catherin Porter in the Toronto Star. It’s all about the script that Toronto cops are following this weekend. It is a plan that is often followed in the United States at political conventions for example. Here are the main elements:

Information warfare. This starts weeks before the event. Protesters are criminalized and dehumanized, and described as dangerous “anarchists” and “terrorists” the city needs to defend against.

“Often, a faux cache is found,” says Archer. “They are usually ordinary objects, like bike inner tubes, camping equipment, but the police make them out to look threatening. It lays the groundwork for police to be violent and it means there’s a reduced accountability of law enforcement.”

Intimidation. Police start random searches of perceived protesters before any large rallies. They are asked where they are staying, why they are walking around. Police raid organizer’s homes or meeting places, “usually just before the summit, so there’s maximum chaos organizers have to deal with,” says Archer.

“All this is meant to dissuade participants. The best way to make sure you don’t have a critical mass of people taking over the streets like in Seattle is to reduce the numbers at the outset.”

This is usually made possible by last-minute city regulations, curtailing the right to protest. In Miami, the city commission passed a temporary ordinance forbidding groups of more than seven to congregate for more than 30 minutes without a permit.

“They threw rocks.” That’s the line police use after tear-gassing or beating protesters most times, Archer says. Urine and human feces are variations on the theme. But it’s always the protesters who triggered the violence. A popular police tactic is called “kettling.” Officers on bike or horses herd protesters into an enclosed space, so they can’t leave without trying to break through the police line. Take the bait; you provoke a beating or arrest. And of course, there are the famous agent provocateurs, outted publicly two years ago in Montebello. Police officers dressed up like militant protesters to protect the peaceful crowd, they say; Archer says it’s to instigate trouble.

In Montebello, one of the three cops dressed in black was holding a rock.

“It’s the same lies every single protest,” she says. “It’s justification by law enforcement for their violent actions. This is a propaganda war.”

Job well done. At the end, regardless of the bodies clogging the temporary holding cells and hospitals, the police always congratulate themselves. And by the time the cases go to court, the story is long forgotten and the circus has moved to a new unsuspecting town.

More than 270 people were arrested in Miami during the summit seven years ago . How many were convicted, in the end? I called the American Civil Liberties Union to find out.

“None,” said lawyer Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, who was the president of the Miami chapter back then.

Written by slothropia

June 27th, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Nova Scotia Election: NDP Majority

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The pollsters got it right. They predicted The NDP would get 45% in today’s election and they did, earning a majority of 31 of the 52 seats in the N.S. legislature. The Liberals got 11 seats and will be Official Opposition. The Tories move from Government to Third Party, a just reward for the hysterically negative campaign they ran.

It appears that NDP Leader Darrell Dexter ran a cautious campaign and managed not to make too many promises that would be difficult to keep. Tonight, he promised to run a fiscally prudent government.

Dexter said he would use this mandate with both caution and enthusiasm. He promised to honour campaign commitments, such as keeping emergency rooms open, taking the HST off electricity costs and fixing rural roads.

“And we will live within our means,” he added.

“Where we stand at this moment is not where we stop,” Dexter said to applause. “It’s where we start.”

Dexter is perhaps fortunate in that his constituents know that there is a global recession going on for which he will not be blamed.

Historically, the Atlantic provinces have been difficult for the NDP, but over the past couple of decades they have built a solid and growing base there. Nova Scotia is of course where the New Dems have had the most success, but there is an small NDP base in both New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador (in PEI, the New Democrats are left wing Liberals). We’ll soon see whether or not Nova Scotia gives its Atlantic neighbors crazy ideas.

In recent months, the Canadian corporate media (which hates the NDP because it is not part of the Liberal/Conservative oligopoly) has waged a vicious jihad against Jack Layton and the federal party. The Liberals are supposed to take all the NDP seats in the next election which will be held ???? This latest success will not change the media dynamic, because the only legitimate parties are the Libs and Tories. Still the Nova Scotia victory helps the federal NDP in a number of ways and Layton has a little bit more wind in his sails than he did yesterday.

Written by slothropia

June 9th, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Nova Scotia Election: NDP Majority Predicted

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I have very little direct experience with politics in the Atlantic province, compared to my experiences in other parts of Canada. I have worked, in various capacities, on NDP federal or provincial campaigns in Yukon, B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. And Newfoundland.

For some reason, I was once asked to manage a byelection campaign in Newfoundland. To this day I still don’t know if it was a ghastly mistake or an act of utter desperation. In any case I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks in one of the most beautiful (if a little chilly) parts of North America, and to spend that time with a truly remarkable group of volunteers and politicians. The New Democrats I met in Newfoundland and Labrador (the official name of the province) were politically savvy and courageous. They knew the odds, in that campaign and in the longer run, were long. They knew the way forward was steep. They were realistic, but determined to make a difference.

I learned two things in that campaign. One is that voters lie to make canvassers feel good. That is true everywhere, but there was an epidemic of it in that byelection. The other thing is that the voters in that campaign wanted tangible benefits from whoever they voted for. It was a lean time on the east coast back then ( the early 90’s) and in many ways still is. This was during a time when there was a moratorium on cod fishing because there were so few of the fish left. That zapped a lot of jobs and left a lot of people struggling to survive.

This was in the early 90’s, and things have perhaps gotten a little easier for the NDP there, but it’s still going to be awhile before there is a New Democratic Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nova Scotia, otoh, is a completely different kettle of fish. The NDP has been building there for decades, thanks in large part to the efforts of Alexa McDonough, who led the provincial party for many years before becoming federal leader in 1995.

The current leader is Darrel Dexter, who seems to be adored by the voters of Nova Scotia. Predictions are for a pretty solid NDP majority after the polls close tomorrow night.

Again, I don’t know enough about Nova Scotia politics to comment with much insight about the results, but I will report them here and maybe speculate wildly about regional and federal implications.

Written by slothropia

June 8th, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Lib/Con Coalition in Ottawa

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

I meant to put up a reaction to the Liberal decision to support the Harper budget a few days ago, but I was abducted by aliens and they just now dropped me off. It’s OK though. My period of captivity gave me a chance to reflect on the situation in Ottawa, for the political dust to settle north of the border and for the Canadian version of the corporate media (incl the CBC) to bloviate itself into a tizzy about how wise is Ignatieff and how silly Jack Layton.

As Monk would say, here’s what happened.

1. The Conservatives won a plurality of seats in the last election. They then won a confidence vote on the Throne speech.

2. In late November, the Harper Finance Minister delivered a financial statement (a mini budget if you will) that included some mean spirited legislation but very little stimulus for an economy which was clearly going to soon be in trouble. There is an old saying; “When the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold.” The U.S. has a bad cold, and Canada can expect a case of economic pneumonia.

3. With Jack Layton as chief instigator, the three opposition parties declare themselves ready to vote against the Tories in a confidence vote and agree to form a Liberal/NDP coalition, with Bloc support (conditional upon the Governor General inviting the Leader of the Opposition to form a government after the Conservatives were defeated in the House).

4. Smelling defeat and the loss of power, Harper persuades the Governor General to prorogue (suspend) Parliament for a month while the Cons write a full budget.

5. The Liberal Caucus replaces outgoing Leader Stephane Dion with Michael Ignatieff. They did this for a number of reasons. In short it was awkward to have a lame duck leader when there was talk of forming a government and/or when there is an ongoing political and economic crisis in the land.

6. The Conservatives deliver their budget on schedule and on schedule the Liberals declare their willingness to support the budget and the Harper government.

7. The other two opposition parties, again with Layton and the NDP in the lead, attack Ignatieff and the Liberals for betraying the coalition and and all Canadians by supporting a budget that did not provide enough economic stimulus and which did not do enough to strengthen Employment Insurance (the Orwellian term for Unemployment Insurance).

8. Meanwhile, the Canadian corporate media mainly praises the budget and Ignatieff’s capitulation.

Here’s an example of the last point from Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff did the right thing in supporting the budget rather than trying to force an election or entering that ridiculous arrangement with the NDP and the separatists.

His demand as the price for his party’s support – periodic updates on how the budget is working – seems appropriate. Given the unknown ahead, chances are that six months from now, many of the budget’s assumptions, and at least some of the programs, are going to need serious adjustment.

And here is Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert:

Stephen Harper saved his job as prime minister but the Liberals are the net winners of the extraordinary parliamentary showdown that almost cost the Conservatives their minority government.

Less than four months after they were knocked down to a historical low in the popular vote in a general election, the just-concluded crisis has reset federal politics to their advantage.

Polling since the Tory budget shows little change from before. In Quebec the Libs are slightly behind the Bloc, with the NDP and Harpers in a virtual tie for third.

The Liberals may have gained in the short term, but there is time before the next election for them to regret Ignatieff’s choice. Since Ignatieff’s capitulation, the NDP has run a series of radio ads slamming the Liberal Leader for propping up the Tories as Dion had done.

The NDP’s strategy is now focused on courting progressive Liberals who had welcomed the Coalition. If that strategy works, the next election (to be held sometime this year, says the smart money) will see a strengthened Liberal Party and NDP with the Tories and Bloc dropping some seats. I would bet heavily against a Liberal majority, but a result like the one I described could lead to a Liberal/NDP working accord, if not a revived coalition that would not need Bloc support.

Canadian Budget: Its Deficit Time in Ottawa

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Cross Posted at Daily Kos

Here are the highlight of today’s Canadian Federal budget (thanks CTV) :

* $85 billion deficit over the nest five years
* Personal taxes down $20 billion over six years
* Business taxes cut by $2 billion over six years
* $12 billion for infrastructure spending towards roads, sewers and universities, $1 billion for “green” infrastructure, and $1 billion for clean-energy research.
* $1.5 billion for job training programs
* $7.8 billion for social housing and home renovation, including a one-year only Home Renovation Tax Credit of up to $1,350 per household.
* $2.7 billion in short-term loans to the auto industry.
* More than $1.4 billion for aboriginal schools, health, water, housing, community services and training.
* About $325 million for arts and culture.

This is the Canadian version of a stimulus package and resembles in some way the legislation now working its way through the U.S. Congress.

Prime Minister Harper insisted during last fall’s election campaign that there was no need for the Canadian government to run a deficit because the Canadian economy was stronger than the American one. Was he mistaken or did he lie? That’s right, he made stuff up, Conservatives can’t help themselves I guess.

The NDP and the Bloc have made it clear that they will vote against the budget, so all eyes turn to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. He will announce his decision Wednesday morning.

I have two toonies and a loonie that says the Libs will back the Tories, just as they regularly did in the last parliament. Any takers?

I’ll be back tomorrow with more on the budget debate and upcoming confidence votes.

Written by slothropia

January 27th, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Political Heat in Canada: Throne Speech Today, Budget to Follow

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Long ago, in December of 2008 (when George Bush was still President – THAT long ago), Canada found itself embroiled in an almost unprecedented parliamentary crisis.

Here’s The Daily show’s crack news team (by which I mean I think they are on crack) doing their best to explicate said crisis for American viewers.

Ha ha. Good times.

To briefly review, the Conservative Government of Canada presented to Parliament legislation that the opposition parties found unacceptable. In response, the opposition parties in Parliament formed a coalition. The left wing (sort of) New Democrats would join a government lead by the centrist Liberals, with the nominally separatist Bloq Quebecois promising support for a year and a half.

Sensing danger, and to avoid losing a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper persuaded the Governour General to suspend Parliament until today.

This afternoon, Parliament reopened with a Throne Speech or summary of the Government’s agenda, delivered by the Governour General. Tomorrow, the Minister of Finance tables a budget, but in the run up to tomorrow, Government ministers have been leaking like rusty tub, trying to kick start support for the Tories and their budget. They are scared so it looks like the budget will owe more to Obama than to Bush.

Meanwhile, among the opposition parties, there have been a few developments.

When the coalition deal was struck, the Liberal were lead by Stephane Dion. Dion had already resigned as Liberal Leader, though he planned to stay in place until May when his successor was to be named. Instead, all the candidates for the Liberal Leadership withdrew in favor of Michael Ignatieff, who is now in place as Liberal Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition.

Since becoming Liberal Leader, Ignatieff has been sending mixed signals about the future of the coalition. On paper, there is still an agreement between the liberals and NDP to defeat the Tories in a confidence vote and ask the Governour General to allow the Coalition to form a government. However, Ignatieff has refused to say if the Liberals will vote against the budget, while NDP Leader Jack Layton has consistently insisted that Harper cannot be trusted and the Conservative government must go.

Right now, my gut feeling is that the Liberals will support the government, with the Bloq and NDP voting nay.

Again, tomorrow the Conservatives introduce their budget. Tomorrow evening I will post something about its contents of the budget and when the first vote on it will occur. I’ll also speculate more about how the vote will go.

Maintenant
, I’m gonna wash down some poutine with a couple of bottles of Moosehead while I watch a replay of the NHL All Star Game.

Written by slothropia

January 26th, 2009 at 9:26 pm