Tuesday, April 19, 2016
That much should be clear by now, anyway. The Manitoba New Democrats, having governed practically unchallenged since 1999, are now reaping what they've sown in the form of Brian Pallister, a former Filmon-era cabinet minister, Harperite MP, and all around goof who is only marginally more popular than he is unpopular.
In almost any normal race, Pallister would be easy pickings for the efficient NDP, probably one of the best modern political machines in the country. They know how to squeeze tight to voters and successfully govern a province that, given the chance, could be unfriendly to them. Modern Manitoba is not dominated by labour any longer, so the NDP have had to essentially moderate themselves to the point of being indistinguishable from neighbouring. Red Dippers, if you will, and that strategy has been very successful - until now, obviously.
Greg Selinger, current premier, has been a disaster for the party. Shortly after winning a somewhat contested election in 2011, where he swore up and down he would never raise the PST, he did just that. The government's popularity plummeted immediately, and had the NDP been a new government forces to make "tough decisions," they may have gotten away with it. But after sixteen years in power, no one was willing to listen to their excuses.
Selinger's leadership was challenged in a way we don't often see in Canada, at least not openly. A "gang of five" ministers, mostly unnotable, swore off the government and resigned, though not from caucus. Agitators successfully campaigned for a leadership race to take place, with the hopes of toppling Selinger with a united voice - and they were close, oh so close. Selinger won by a whisker, and the man who brought the poison to the party also got to claim the chalice he put it in.
The hope for Manitobans tired of the NDP but not interested in revisiting the early '90s had another option, of course - the Liberals, led by neophyte Rana Bokhari, were waiting in the wings. Like 1988, they had an opportunity to run an effective campaign and place themselves, if not first, at least as strong challengers to the feckless Tories.
Of course, that did not come to pass. Rana Bokhari has probably been the worst leader in the party's modern history, running a campaign so terrible that they've become even more irrelevant than they were at the start. What was once a chance to attain Official Opposition has become a fight to gain even one seat. But more on that soon.
Overall, my projection for the race tonight will be a common one - a massive PC majority, probably somewhere between 70-80% of the seats (42 to 46) which is an absolutely staggering amount. The last time a single party held that much support in the Legislature was in 1915.
This is all happening despite Pallister not necessarily being that popular. The recent Insights West poll put his approval at 45%, which is great, but he had negative momentum coming in; also while 36% said they preferred him as Premier, 53% was the actual total voting for the Tories in the same poll, showing that he lags behind his party by a rather significant amount.
However, you don't have to be popular when your rivals are tremendously less so. Selinger rocked a 25% approval rating and 16% preference, while Bokhari sat below Selinger at 20% approval and just 5% preference as Premier, behind Green leader James Beddome.
Beddome and his Greens in fact have in some ways been the surprise stars of this campaign. While not running anywhere near a full slate, the Greens have consistently been polling anywhere between 5-9% throughout the campaign, an extremely strong number for them. While I do not have the Greens winning any seats, mostly because I expect them to fall back once votes are counted, there is a better-than-average chance that in Fort Garry-Riverview, where Beddome is running, we could see a massive, massive upset.
Which brings me back to the Liberals. What the hell happened, and where will their stumbling end them up tonight?
As I outlined in a previous post, Bokhari's campaign was a mess and going nowhere fast. The one chance she had to turn it around was the CBC debate, and she absolutely blew it according to the polls. Some say she recovered in the Chamber of Commerce debate held not long after, but I have a feeling that even if it was broadcast to every single Manitoban's home, it wouldn't be enough - the narrative of the collapsing Liberal campaign had set in long ago.
As such, I do not expect the Liberals to get far beyond their 2011 results.The ray of hope, however, is that the NDP have collapsed so thoroughly throughout the province according to polls that some ridings will simply become Liberal by default.
In particular, Tyndall Park (just under 35% in 2011) and Fort Rouge (24%, and where Bokhari is running) are mathematically destined to turn red. I stress that this is based on polling, not the local factors.
In the Liberal's positives column is that Tyndall Park has a strong Filipino and immigrant presence, which past MLA and current MP Kevin Lamoureux laid the foundations for as a strong Liberal constituency. Also voters looking to turf the NDP in that riding will see the Liberals as the better option by a wide margin, at least looking to past results. They're also helped by having Filipino community organizer Aida Champagne running for them.
For Fort Rouge, the situation is trickier. This should be another pick-up without much fuss, without an NDP incumbent running and on paper a strong candidate, that being the leader. However, we know Bokhari is kind of weak, and the NDP are running Wab Kinew, a First Nations musician, broadcaster, and professor, who ostensibly should be a strong candidate - in any other year or running for any other party he would be anyway. Riding polls that have come out point to a close race, closer than it should be - but, if Bokhari can at least organize her team, it should be a Liberal win.
The other ridings where the Liberals have a strong presence are, of course, River Heights, where longtime MLA and past leader Jon Gerrard is running again; Logan, the riding stretching from Portage and Main in downtown to the CP rail yard in the north, is also a good riding for the Liberals; The Maples, part of Lamoureux's stomping grounds with a lot of immigrant communities; Flin Flon, another by-the-math Liberal riding where a town councillor is running; and Burrows, which I don't have them close to winning but Kevin Lamoureux's daughter is running there.
Long shots include Brandon East, where a municipal councillor is running, and... that's it really. If they were higher in the polls, this list would be a lot longer.
As to the NDP and PCs... what is there to say? There has been some crowing about the PCs taking the north, but this is unlikely - and yes, I know Keewatinook is blue on my projection. That is a riding that should go PCs by the math, but the NDP incumbent is still running and even during the height of the Filmon years it was never a PC target. Flin Flon will likely be a better target for the PCs due to the vote split there on the NDP side plus an on-paper strong Liberal presence.
The interlake ridings held by the NDP before should all flip. Brandon East and Selkirk should also fall. Suburban Winnipeg will be a massacre for the NDP, with probably exceptions in Saint Boniface (Selinger's riding) and Elmwood/Concordia, where the NDP are traditionally strong - then again, Elmwood by the numbers should go PC.
Dangers for Pallister's romp tonight include voters who are overly confident in his win and staying home, allowing some squeaker races to go to the NDP; also where the centre-left "change" vote goes if not to the Liberals. If they stay home for vote PC, fine, but if they decide living with Selinger is better than living with Pallister... don't expect an upset overall, but some people could easily hang on.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
|The Leap Manifesto|
After having a leader and a campaign that completely misread the electorate and botched their best chance at power in their history, some very smart people are deciding to do a complete 180 and start missing the point in the other direction with the support of the incredibly crazy Leap Manifesto.
Here's the thing: Canadians didn't vote Liberal because they went full on left-wing last election, they voted Liberal because they wanted a break from Harper's right-wing government. Canadians were looking for a break, but honestly it was more about a difference in style but not necessarily in substance. Yes, our government is a little more to the left than Harper's on a lot of issues, and I believe our priorities and our passions are more aligned with Canadians - but this ain't no revolution, folks, and that is what Canadians wanted. Mulcair failed because he decided to stick so closely to the Harper script that people had a hard time recognizing him, beard or no.
The Leap Manifesto though? That platform is a left swing so far out there that you'll have trouble seeing the electorate in the rear-view mirror as you speed past it. Differentiate yourselves, sure, but you don't need to fully separate yourselves from reality.
Now, I will 100% throw my support behind the NDP endorsement of the Leap Manifesto, but that is mostly because I enjoy watching Dippers immolate themselves. Current party leaders, however, like Rachel Notley and Andrea Horwath, are moderates looking to be elected (or re-elected in Notley's case) in a few years time. They will not be as amused as I.
The Leap Manifesto, if adopted, would absolutely destroy the Alberta NDP. Despite running the most fossil fuel industry friendly government in the country, they are still constantly accused of being eco-communists who will forest over the oil sands. Federal party adopts the Leap Manifesto, in Edmonton no less? Suddenly it all seems validated, and say goodbye to your only government.
In Ontario, the provincial Liberals seem set for a reckoning, but would kill for the chance to paint the NDP with the Leap Manifesto. Horwath already has something of a reputation as someone willing to do whatever it takes to get power, suddenly the presentation of the priorities in the Leap Manifesto come forth and suddenly Kathleen Wynne and Patrick Brown start talking about the true agenda of the NDP, scaring the bejeezus out of the suburban voters who they've spent so long trying to court. Or it could go in the other direction, with Wynne pointing out how the flaky New Democrats can't seem to get their priorities straight, instead blowing to and fro based on what they perceive to be the momentum from an election several years past (an idea we Liberals are painted with all too often).
There is also an election in BC where this could come into play. The Liberals are going for a fifth term, and by all rights they should be taken out by a revitalized NDP, but John Horgan is hardly inspiring and has already decided to take stands that cost his predecessor a chance at becoming Premier. Add in the Leap Manifesto, and while a few granolas in Vancouver and Victoria might be grateful, the large majority of BCers will not be. Christy Clark re-elected, again.
Listen, Dippers, you can sit there and be the conscience of Canadians all you want, that's fine - so long as you truly are our conscience, and not the ramblings of a hipster stuck in a Marx-inspired high.
Monday, April 4, 2016
I think we all knew that was coming. Wall has maintained a steady and impressive lead over the rival New Democrats, with his closest and lowest margin between 52-34 in late February, a margin that has only grown since then to roughly 30%, or 60-30.
If we assume that 60-30 is the result tonight, that represents a drop for both parties from 2011 (64.3% and 31.9%). This is mostly due to the renewed presence of the Saskatchewan Liberals, who only managed 0.6% in 2011 but will probably score higher than the Greens (2.9% in 2011) this go around, though not significantly higher and they will struggle to break through even to second place in any ridings. Their presence still has an effect however, with a possible spoiler role for some Liberal candidates in close margins between the SaskParty and NDP (most likely to the benefit of the SaskParty), as well as reducing the percentage of votes both the larger parties will receive because math.
However, there may indeed be some seats changing hands this election to the benefit of Cam Broten and the NDP, even if the overall numbers have not changed much. Two reasons:
1. Regina's numbers have shifted favourably towards the NDP. According to 308's aggregate, pollsters have pegged the numbers in Regina at 48.5% SaskParty to 42.2% NDP. This is not a huge movement, no, but it could put more easily into play a couple of area ridings, specifically Regina Douglas Park (about 5% margin in 2011) and, if they're lucky, Regina Pasqua (14.3% margin) and Regina University (13.9% margin) where no SaskParty incumbents are running.
2. Close races throughout. While the Liberals will probably spoil some close races, ridings like Moose Jaw Wakamow (1.2% margin in favour of the NDP) and Prince Albert Carlton (4.4% margin), where the margin is minimal or redistribution, specifically in the case of Moose Jaw Wakamow, has flipped the riding to the NDP. In Saskatoon, where the polls have painted a much less rosy picture for the NDP, there still exist some close races, specifically thinking here of Saskatoon Fairview (1.7% margin) which could easily flip if given the chance and a good candidate.
There are a lot of caveats, of course. I believe Regina Douglas Park is less likely to flip NDP than a riding like Regina University, thanks to the presence of the Green Party's leader, Victor Lau, who earned just under 6% support in 2011, as well as the marginally stronger Liberal candidate - there is no reason to expect either third party candidate to pull in any less this time around, and given that there is no precipitous drop for the SaskParty and barely a bump for the NDP, Douglas Park may be hard to flip. The Liberal Party's leader Darrin Lamoureux is running in Regina Pasqua, and we could see a similar spoiled flip for the NDP there depending upon his strength in the district.
Even if the best case scenario happens in all these ridings, it will put the NDP nowhere near government, so don't expect any head scratching tonight.
Saturday, April 2, 2016
In a campaign where one of the most unpopular governments in modern history is running for re-election, the Manitoba Liberals under leader Rana Bokhari are sure trying their darnedest to fail at capitalizing on that fact.
I have been involved and followed campaigns for eight years now, so I feel I can reliably say that the current campaign being run by the Liberals is one of the worst I've seen.
Poor vetting of candidates started off the crisis, with social media gaffes, candidates disqualified for violating election laws, candidates saying stupid things, and just fresh off the presses, a standing candidate who was allowed to run despite a 2002 conviction for assault.
Add on top of that the fact that the party failed to organize a full slate of candidates in the election, running only in 52 out of 57 constituencies, and I know that at least two prospective candidates didn't gain enough signatures to get on the ballot in time. This is not a simple issue to brush off - Bokhari insisted she would run a full slate yet failed to, despite having momentum from the federal win and having ample time to get candidates in place (the election date was well known in advance). It speaks to the lack of organization and internal momentum within the campaign, a damning enough concern without noting that the supposedly worse off NDP easily found a full slate, including some star candidates.
Worst. Platform. Ever.
Then there is the platform and the messaging that goes with it. This is probably the worst of it, and only partly because it reinforces the theme of the Liberals flailing about without cause.
"Its time for meaningful change" and "Believe in a better Manitoba" are nice sounding slogans, but they have to be backed up by something. The Liberal platform amounts to a pot luck of costly promises (some of them repeated multiple times). While, sure, they're generally all positive, they fail to form a coherent message of where the party wants to take Manitoba.
Compare and contrast the Liberal's hefty bag of policies and meaningless message of change versus the open but strict message of the NDP ("because everyone matters") and the fluffy but direct message of the PCs ("Better Plan. Better Manitoba.").
Bokhari's Liberals are trying, and failing, to mimic the federal party's campaign last October, I get it. Except "Real change" worked because the federal NDP played into the narrative. However the PCs, competing for the anti-NDP vote with the Liberals, are not. There is a lot of difference between the messages you get from "Real Change" and "Change that's ready." Not so much between "Time for meaningful change" and "Better Plan. Better Manitoba." Both basically refer to the same concept of better governance, except one simply sounds better.
Circling back, the veritable buffet of partially costed Liberal policies does not speak to "meaningful change" in any specific way. The federal Liberals stuck to core messaging - just glance at the 2015 platform and you'll get it right away- while the Manitoba Liberals are doing the exact opposite, with a scattershot approach, picking and choosing little tidbits of policies, practical or not, to put out there but with zero heft behind them.
Ask yourselves when browsing the Liberal's platform: who are they trying to target? Who is this message of "meaningful change" supposed to resonate with? Where is the quick pitch that sums up Bokhari's vision in 15 seconds or less? You'll see what I mean.
Again, I'm not saying the policies are bad... or are they? The NDP have made a point to pounce on some of the controversial or odd policies put forward by the party (plus the gaffes), and the proposed fiscal platform has not gained a lot of fans. The NDP are looking for any advantage they can get to stay alive, and while their criticisms may not hold water in reality, it matters little if your poor messaging can't counter that narrative.
At the end of the day, their policies lack direction and they're basically broadcasting their message into the void with the hope someone picks it up. And if so far you have no bites, don't you think its time to change how you're putting your message out there?
Where are the ads? Where is the money?
Part of the problem may be the fact that the Liberal Party has barely any money. It managed an anemic $220,000 haul in 2015, compared to the NDP's $736,000 and the whopping $1.7-million garnered by the PCs in 2014 (their 2015 returns aren't filed yet). 2015 was the best year for the party in a long time as well - but its a far cry from the amount needed to run an effective campaign, or certainly does not speak to any momentum the party wishes it had.
the PCs spent over $1.4-million and the NDP $1.3-million in 2011, while the Liberals spent about $179K. Guessing based on the numbers so far, I think the Liberals will maybe spend about the same this year, with a maximum of $250K.
The bigger kick? In 2011, both the NDP and PCs spent more on far more on media advertising alone than the Liberals may spend for their entire campaign this year, with the PCs spending $718K and the NDP $653K, while the Liberals put up just $107K worth of advertising.
Include in other campaign expenses plus transfers to constituencies and salaries for party workers, and there is no way the Bokhari Liberals are going to compete with the NDP, let alone the PCs, in running an effective campaign.
Lack of competitive fundraising means only one thing, though: not many are interested in hearing what Bokhari or her candidates have to say.
A missed opportunity
Yes, it is a vicious circle - can't get your message out because you have no money, can't raise money because you can't get your message out, etc. - and I don't expect the Liberals to break out of in normal circumstances, but this is not a normal election.
The NDP are collapsing before everyone's eyes, and there is an obvious opening for the Liberals as a replacement on the centre-left-to-centre of the spectrum. Yet their scattershot messaging and poor organizational skills have led to stagnation at best.
They remain locked at 20-25% with the NDP with no clear breakout opportunity in the future, save the leaders debate, but Selinger and Pallister are experienced politicians and while Bokhari can definitely hold her own - you can listen/watch to some clips here of the leader's radio debate back in March - they're not likely to make any major gaffes to give her an opening. I don't know if her charm alone would be enough to gain momentum, certainly hasn't been the case so far.
Polling worse than it seems
Actually, her charm is probably more in doubt than I seem to think. Brian Pallister is not loved by the people, with a 35/34 approval/disapproval according to the last Forum poll, but Bokhari is in the negatives with numbers at 21/36 in the same poll. Not even her own party's supporters give her all that great a rating, with 46/14 but 40% "don't knows." Both Pallister and Selinger, among their party's supporters, earn marks near 60% approval. In the same poll, Bokhari only gets the nod of 10% as to the "Best Premier" question, behind Selinger.
Which all leads to an idea which I admit is my own, but I feel is correct: the Liberals may sit tied with the NDP right now, but no one is very committed to sticking with them. Many may choose to vote NDP or PC come election day, given that the Liberals have offered little but a brand and, uh, "meaningful change" or something.
That means come April 19th, I suspect the Liberal numbers to tank, maybe down to 15% or lower. I think it will benefit the NDP more but its hard to say, regardless of who it goes to though, all those wonderful seat opportunities will go flying out the window. My stated opinion is that Jon Gerrard will continue to be the sole Liberal MLA in the Legislature, at least based on what I've seen so far.
Again, it's my personal view and speculation this far out is pretty useless, but I just have a feeling that if the election were held today, the Liberals (and pollsters) would be in for a shock. For the record though, polling on the issue of "voting strength" per party says I'm wrong.
So what's to be done?
Manitoba deserves a strong Liberal Party, and it does not have that right now. This is an issue that needs to be rectified.
But what we've seen so far is not going to cut it. I'm sorry, Manitoba Liberal fans and candidates, but right now I believe your party is heading for a defeat far worse than what the polls are saying. You have no money, you have no coherent message, and your leader is unknown to most and not liked by those who do know her. Right now you're riding on the coattails of the federal party and the utter hatred Manitobans seem to have for the Selinger NDP.
Maybe that will be enough, and maybe Bokhari and the many fantastic candidates running for the party will pull off an upset. They won't, but maybe.
Things need to change. Messaging needs to be tightened up. What are the anxieties of Manitobans? Are they worried about jobs, healthcare, cuts? Focus on that and drill down on those issues hard, with three or five main platform points that address those concerns in big, bold, beautiful red and/or white lettering. The beautiful thing about having good, targeted messaging as well is that you don't need a lot of money to develop it - just slap it over your site and your literature and let the momentum build that way.
Listen, you're not likely to defeat Brian Pallister's PCs. He has this basically locked up, and while he isn't popular, the vast movement to oust Selinger is working in his favour. But you can eat into his majority and you can take advantage of the NDP's failings yourselves, just step up! Its not too late to salvage this.
And frankly, if you can't or won't, and refuse to recognize any of the points I've made here as valid criticisms, then just step aside. At least the NDP has a shot at retaining a strong opposition.
Sunday, March 27, 2016
If there was ever a sign of how little hope Greg Selinger has of winning the ongoing election in Manitoba, it was with yesterday's key announcement of expanding yurt (and wi-fi) coverage across provincial parks.
Not that yurts aren't cool and all, and tourism isn't important, but in an election that should be about defining and defending the New Democrat legacy against the hordes of conservatism poised on the Legislature's door... yeah, yurts, that is what the media spent the day on.
Granted it is Easter and the messaging works out. It makes sense. Its just... "yurts," the very phrase is ridiculous to think about, and honestly it fits the Selinger and his government to a T.
Meanwhile, Brian Pallister is eating his lunch and the Liberals are trying and, sadly, failing to be relevant. This election is so boring it yurts.
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
The Liberals definitely kept their promise to increase the deficit, and then some - $29.4-billion, with no forecast surplus for the next four years, is nothing to sneeze at. It is far beyond the "modest" $10-billion deficit initially promised.
However, taking cues from the reaction of my very Conservative family members, Trudeau will likely have some sympathy for the ballooning numbers considering the current state of the economy in some parts of the country. Granted that reprieve, the key will be managing expectations then - if the economy improves, Trudeau's government will take credit for their visionary spending budget. If it does not, then expect future Conservative leader Kevin O'Leary to tear a strip off. And if we end up somewhere in between, as we usually do, the Liberals will need good PR and justify their spending when little resulted from it (in appearance).
In essence, this is a dangerous line to walk and while I do believe in the theories and people behind it, politics is nothing if not a public relations game. Failure to produce results may be devastating for the Liberals - after all, we asked Canadians to put their trust in us that we could manage this very controversial plan, and if it doesn't work, whether it is a fault of our own or not, we will pay dearly for the betrayal of that trust.
However, there is a lot in the budget that will go to help Canadians, especially those who need it, which, fyi, is the point. I've seen too many commenters asking about how it benefits them - even a comment as tone deaf as asking why they don't get anything unless they're poor, a senior, a veteran, have children, or are part of an FN community - the question is self-refuting! Most Canadians do not need government assistance, however many do, and this budget is aimed towards them (mostly). Its a strange sort of irony that some of the people asking most for government handouts are those who don't even need them or, in some cases, want them.
But I digress. On a couple of notes, the funding for new affordable housing is absolutely wonderful, and addresses one of the biggest concerns I have when it comes to where the government spends its money. My hope is that the $2.3-billion will go a long way to alleviating poverty in our cities, and that it will be effective in getting hundreds of thousands of Canadians off the street into stable housing. It is one of our biggest national shames that a country as rich as Canada has so many homeless.
Also, the funding for infrastructure and community building for First Nations is a welcome, welcome sight. I don't think I even need to explain why. It is a nice change of pace from the Conservatives, who I don't believe lacked compassion for the state of FN communities but clearly lacked political direction on the issue. I hope our Liberal government never ends up in the same place.
Let's hope we can sell this budget in the coming days and weeks. The Conservatives are certainly lining up to try and knock it down, though Ambrose's criticisms to me seemed to miss the mark - and I say that as a person they should be targeting, as I will forever be concerned about that deficit number. They must be longing for the days when they had actual direction on these issues, rather than the flailing about they're doing now.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
If you celebrate or commit to Earth Hour, dimming/turning off your lights and parring back your electricity use between 8:30pm and 9:30pm, good for you - participation is fun.
However, let's be honest that Earth Hour is just about the minimal you can do, and most don't even do it. There was a dip of 3.6% in Toronto's power usage during Earth Hour, a good amount to be sure but it won't be saving a polar bear anytime soon. It's a gesture, nothing more, and if you didn't participate then you've honestly done nothing more or less than anyone else in the grand scheme of things.
The same goes for the trolls online who say they're turning everything on to spite Earth Hour or castigate those on their phones saying they're going to participate because a phone is a powered product. The amusing part is that the only true effect of their trolling will be on themselves, considering that they pay their own electricity bills, not the people they're making fun of. Again it's simply a gesture, as is the stupid "Human Achievement Hour" which serves only as a parody and strawman of climate change deniers and nothing more.
So what is the point of Earth Hour? That is a good question. I like to imagine Earth You serving as a tool of awareness, rather than actual action, on climate change.
Or maybe it should not be about climate change alone, and simply as a reminder about the total impact human industry and technology has on the world around us. Even simply having the lights on to keep out the dark requires a steady flow of power, and while that is certainly an achievement it also has effects on everything from our local communities to the entire planet that we need to recognize and be concerned about.
Climate change or no, our everyday comfort comes at a price to the environment, and that is what is important to keep in mind. Forget your nitpicking over the use of phones or streetlights, because that misses the point entirely - Earth Hour is not going to save the planet, but it will hopefully remind us that we still have one and if we wish to continue to live on it, we need to be mindful of our impact.
Or maybe you can just be a child and yell at strangers on the internet about how they want us to go back to the dark ages. That seems much more productive honestly.