Bernie Sanders

Is Canada Ripe for its Bernie Sanders Moment?

April 30th, 2015: Bernie Sanders started his campaign speaking to a few members of the media and from what I can tell  zero supporters at an event that was rushed as he needed to head inside for a Senate vote. The idea that the 74 year old rumpled socialist from Vermont could be anything but a fringe candidate was far from anyone’s mind. This campaign was going to a coronation for Hillary Clinton and she was going to brush him off as if he was an annoying mosquito.

Fast forward a few months and Sanders began to regularly fill up huge stadiums who passionately cling to every word that leaves his mouth. Sanders is not an electrifying speaker – his speeches aren’t filled with uplifting rhetoric and folksy anecdotes. What Sanders has in spades is authenticity. Politics has not changed him but he has certainly aimed to change politics. The message of an American “political revolution” that seemed so antithetical to American political culture has struck a chord and, win or lose, will long outlive this campaign.

Is Canada ready for its Bernie Sanders moment?

The Obama Dream

A young, charismatic politician who was long on rhetoric and short on experience relieved a country from eight years of conservatism with authoritarian roots. Change appeared to have arrived.

In 2008, the United States of America was completely enraptured by the young, well-spoken first term Senator named Barack Obama. War weary and facing rapidly collapsing economy, Americans were looking for something vastly different from the Bush/Cheney era. This young Senator seemed to be it. He offered hope to a country that had been beaten down by war and cynicism and made Americans believe that change was indeed possible.

Obama’s presidency certainly has had some significant progressive successes – movement on the fight against climate change, increasing the numbers of people with health care insurance, and LGBTQ+ rights. However, his considerable progressive successes are obscured by the fact America is just as (or probably even more so) divided economically and politically than they have been before his inauguration. The Wall Street bailout proved to many that the needs of the 1% of the American society trump those of everybody else – even if the decisions by the 1% were the ones that led to the financial collapse. The recovery from the 2008 financial collapse has been far more tangible to the people at the top than it has been for the vast majority of Americans. Middle class American jobs are still being outsourced (likely even more will be with the Trans Pacific Partnership that he signed onto), students are still leaving schools completely buried in student debt, infrastructure has continued to decline, partisan rancour and African American children still face a much bleaker future than their white friends. Americans are realizing that the “American Dream” is dead or, even worse, was a myth that was never really attainable in the first place.

The fact that the 2016 reality was so far from the dreams of 2008 has created a deep sense of disillusionment and anger in the American electorate (particularly with young people who face a bleaker future than their parents did) that Sanders and his campaign team has been able to tap into.

Real Change?

In 2015, Canadians were seeking change much like Americans were in 2008 – after a decade under Stephen Harper’s government where ideology and partisanship became embedded in every single government decision. Justin Trudeau, with a reed-thin political resume but with a fresh face, a great smile, and an uncanny ability to turn a glib remark into a viral message, offered Canadians a choice for “Real Change.” The juxtaposition between Harper and Trudeau could not have been more stark.

Trudeau has spent the first 8 months of his government gliding fairly comfortably with an official opposition without a permanent leader and the third party having decided to remove their leader.

Trudeau has made some good decisions:

  • setting up inquiry around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
  • signing UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
  • passing legislation banning discrimination against Canadians for gender expression
  • bringing back the long form census

Recently, we have seen a side of Trudeau and his government that doesn’t seem to jive with the “Real Change” that he promised to Canadians.

Motion 6 would have stripped his parliamentary opposition of many of their options to delay or stall legislation that the opposition sees as problematic. At the best of times, in a majority government situation, there is very little that an opposition can do to slow legislation. Inevitably, the governing party gets its way based on sheer numbers. When the NDP and Conservatives made a small gesture (slowing down the Conservative Whip’s trip to his seat) to temporarily delay the vote, Trudeau impetuously crossed the aisle and physically moved the whip and guided him to his seat. This was an unprecedented act by a Canadian Prime Minister in the House of Commons.

We’ve also seen a Liberal stacking of the committee that would determine changes to our electoral system. It seems to be a blatant conflict of interest for a government to be choosing the electoral system that would be used for their re-election (or defeat). There are concerns that the Liberal government would settle on a system that best suits their partisan interests instead of the best interests of the electorate.

Over the remainder of Trudeau’s four year mandate, inevitably things will get tougher. There will be mistakes and there will be unexpected challenges. Whether Trudeau sticks to “Sunny Ways” or resorts to ham-fisted approaches – such as Motion 6 – when times get tough will essentially determine his fate in future elections.

The Future

When frustrated with a Liberal government, Canadians have always chosen the Conservative Party to replace them and vice-versa. We have always trusted that change can come from within the two traditional governing parties. However, the kind of political revolution promised by Sanders has never happened. The two institutional political parties have “tinkered around the edges” in terms of making change but have we ever had real change? Have we ever seen a government that is genuinely committed to putting the needs of the average Canadians ahead of massive profit? Have we ever seen a government that committed to substantially reducing the inequality in our society?

Jack Layton’s NDP threatened the two party duopoly in 2011 and consigned the Liberal Party to third place. Layton offered Canadians an “orange door” as a legitimate option alongside the “red” and “blue” doors that Canadians have always chosen. In the 2015 election campaign, the NDP’s platform was undoubtedly progressive but the campaign was hindered by strategic mistakes and a leader who sometimes seemed closer to Stephen Harper’s demeanour than to Jack Layton’s.

Like the United States, Canada has some serious issues that have not been dealt with effectively by governments of either of party. We are a deeply unequal country. We are a deeply indebted country – to credit card companies, to the government through student loans, and to banks through mortgages. We are a country in which the younger generations will have to bear a heavy burden of an aging population. We are a country with a relationship with indigenous peoples that is scarred by colonialism and remains deeply broken. We are a country that cannot afford to avoid tackling one of the most pressing issues of our time – climate change.

Although Canada’s federal electoral system has always handed either the Liberals or Conservatives the keys to government, a Sanders-esque candidate is far more likely to be successful in the Canadian electoral system than in the American system. The American system is heavily rigged towards the ultra-wealthy – especially after Citizens United. For an insurgent candidate like Sanders to have done as well as he has in that system is astounding. In Canada, there is a much more level playing field – corporate and union donations are banned and personal contributions are significantly capped.

Will the heady dreams of real change that were promised by Justin Trudeau in 2015 be nothing more than a faded memory in 2019 or 2023? If so, Canada may be ready for its Bernie Sanders moment. At that point, Canadians may be ready for someone who doesn’t speak in platitudes about real change; they might look for the real thing. The Canadian version of Bernie Sanders will almost certainly look very different and probably sound very different from the 74 year old socialist from Vermont. If the message of a genuine and authentic politician dovetails with the zeitgeist of the country, history will be made.

Mouseland

“It’s the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.

They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.

Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for last 90 years and maybe you’ll see that they weren’t any stupider than we are.

Now I’m not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws–that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds–so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: “All that Mouseland needs is more vision.” They said: “The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we’ll establish square mouseholes.” And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, “Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?” “Oh,” they said, “he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!” So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.” Clarence Gillis as told by Tommy Douglas.

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Did a Dead Cat Elect a Liberal Majority?

The longest election campaign in modern Canadian history started relatively quietly – the first few weeks seemed to be a case of each party trying to find it’s footing.

The Harper Conservatives were facing a barrage of bombshells from the testimony of Ben Perrin and Nigel Wright at the Mike Duffy trial.

The heartbreaking death of three year old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi had started an important discussion around Canada’s immigration policy and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander badly bungled the situation. It looked like immigration could be the defining issue of the campaign.

The Liberals were dealing with the blowback of their support for Bill C-51. Their untested leader had a tendency to walk headfirst into embarrassing gaffes when he strayed off message and seemed ripe to be embarrassed by his opponents at the leaders’ debates.trudeau win

Polls consistently placed the NDP ahead of the pack. It seemed poised to make historic gains in the campaign. Thomas Mulcair had the NDP’s largest war-chest in it’s history, a massive lead in Quebec, and was facing two parties that seemed to be going nowhere fast. They seemed primed to capitalize on the “Anybody But Conservative” campaign – like their Alberta counterparts were able to do in the May provincial election.

And then things changed.

Notorious (I think it is the nicest word to describe him) campaign strategist Lynton Crosby was shipped into Canada by the Harper team. He is known for his ability to divide and conquer and has few scruples about using racially charged issues to achieve his end goals. Crosby has talked about a “dead cat” strategy – namely when a party is losing on the issues to throw an ugly issue (aka dead cat) onto the table as a means to change the focus of the debate.

Harper’s “dead cat” was the niqab. It seemed unbelievable that a piece of fabric at a citizenship ceremony could possibly impact the election in any significant way. But it did. It shook up Canada’s political snowglobe.

Quebec had just had a serious debate about entrenching secularism in it’s politics. The Marois-led Parti Quebecois government tried to bring in the “Charte des valeurs québécoises” which would have banned public workers from displaying any religious symbols and make it mandatory for people to uncover their face when providing or receiving a public service. Marois’ government was turfed from office after running a campaign focused on the Chartre and the bill died after the defeat of her government.

The issue of face covering is seen as a classic wedge issue for progressive voters. To many progressives, the burka and niqab represents oppression. Other progressives believe that the debate on face covering is a form of “dog whistle” politics that appeals to the baser instincts of voters.

The Conservative calculus was likely that the NDP would be hit the hardest with this wedge issue. Quebecois – the NDP’s newly established base of support – were massively in favour of the banning of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies.

The NDP was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They had always fought to build a more inclusive and welcoming Canada for Muslims. However, they had to fight for their own base of support in Quebec which seemed to support the niqab ban. A party that is looking to grow their support can’t afford to spend time trying to fight to protect their base. They need to trust that their base is behind them 100% so that they can broaden their support. To make matters much worse, Gilles Duceppe’s Bloc Quebecois seemed to be re-invigorated by the issue and joined with Harper in his calls for the ban. Many of the newly minted NDP supporters had, at one point or another, been Bloc voters and the NDP couldn’t afford to lose them.

Tom Mulcair and the NDP did yeoman’s work in trying to move the public debate forward and shift the attitudes about the niqab. However, it was a serious distraction from his message. Every day that Mulcair was defending the niqab was a day that he was off-message and unfortunately for the NDP, the issue was dragging on and on. The immediate impact of the niqab debate was that the Conservatives seemed to be able to create a “dead cat bounce” as they saw a jump in the polls. The NDP, on the other hand, were dropping in the polls – particularly in Quebec. A four party race emerged that also included the BQ, Conservatives, and the Liberals.

In comparison, the Liberals were able to skate past the issue. The Quebec Liberals had survived the Chartre debate in the provincial campaign and Trudeau didn’t face the political risk that the Mulcair did in taking a stand against the ban – many Liberal supporters in Quebec come from minority communities and were against the Charte. While Mulcair and Harper engaged in battles based on the niqab, Trudeau was able to move beyond the issue and get a positive and optimistic message out while appearing above the fray. Furthermore, it allowed him to move past the C-51 issue that had previously crippled his poll numbers.

The Conservative “dead cat bounce” receded as public’s temperature dropped on the niqab issue.The NDP had staked a tremendous amount of their political capital on the niqab issue but the Liberals were the beneficiary of the change in the Canadian mood on the issue. As the Liberals moved up in the polls, they became the vessel of change in Canada – the choice of voters who wanted anybody but the conservatives.

The Harper Conservatives had always benefited from a split “anti-Harper vote” between the NDP, Liberals, and Greens. Their “dead cat strategy” was a stark reminder of how far the Conservatives will go to win an election and created an urgency to ensuring that they weren’t election. Furthermore, combined with C-24 and C-51, the strategy undid a lot of the work done by Jason Kenney in building a base of Conservative support with immigrants. As such, in the couple of weeks in the campaign, the anti-Harper vote rallied en masse behind Trudeau and propelled the Liberals to an unexpected majority government.

The NDP was buried by the red wave as they lost much of their base in Quebec as well as some of their strongest MPs. Although the Bloc Quebecois was able to benefit from a four way split in Quebec and elected 10 MPs, their percentage of the vote went down from the 2011 election and their leader lost in the riding that he was running in.

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Dealing with a Gaffe

Everyone makes mistakes. Even (especially?) politicians. Unfortunately, for politicians, these embarrassing events happen in public and usually in front of a camera. Some gaffes can be easily overcome and some can destroy a campaign and hurt a career.

Let’s take a look at some classic politician gaffes:

Katz kicks a kid

kat

Former Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz played soccer with some inner-city kids for a photo op. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well for Sam (or the kid). Sam missed the ball but managed to kick a kid in the face. Worse he continued to play the game without checking on the kid. Katz ended up being re-elected anyways.

Three Agencies?

In a policy debate, Rick Perry forgets his policy. He dropped out of the Republican race shortly thereafter.

Math is Difficult

math is difficult

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/alberta-politics/1_hqkslgsc/video.html

Showing arrogance and condescension, Jim Prentice attacks NDP Leader (and then Premier) Rachel Notley on her economic policy by saying that “I know that math is difficult, Rachel.” Notley and her party handily disposed of the PCs and their dynasty a couple of weeks later.

Spelling is Difficult Too

At a photo-op just a few months before the 1992 election, Vice President Dan Quayle gives student a lesson in how not to spell.

 

The Dean Scream

Democratic insurgent candidate Howard Dean lost the Iowa Caucus in 2004 and then he briefly lost his mind…and his campaign flamed out shortly thereafter. Better to burn out than to fade away.

And Joe Biden…the gaffe-meister

There are entire videos on all of Joe’s gaffes. He is still Vice President of the United States.

Please Proceed Governor…

With millions of eyes watching the debate, Republican nominee dug himself deep into a whole as he tried to attack President Obama’s response to Benghazi. His campaign was over. In a slightly ironic twist, he received 47% of the vote.

Some politicians survived their gaffes. Some didn’t. Why? There are a two main determining factors:

1) Does it reinforce a narrative?

Jim Prentice was leader of a party that had governed for 44 years and was accused of being arrogant and out of touch. Some of his previous statements had been criticized as arrogant. He cemented the idea that he was arrogant by talking down to a female leader of a party. To make things even worse, his statement was actually wrong.

Rick Perry was never accused of being the brightest of all of the Republican candidates seeking the presidential nomination. His forgetting his own policy reinforced the opinion that he really wasn’t smart enough to be President. To remedy this problem, he has bought himself a fancy pair of smart looking glasses.

One would think kicking a kid in the face would be something that a politician couldn’t recover from. However, Sam Katz wasn’t known to walk down the street kicking kids. It was pretty easy to brush off as a clumsy mistake. People generally forget the first time a politician does something embarrassing. However, they won’t forget a second similar incident. A gaffe that reinforces an existing narrative is the type of gaffe that will sink your campaign/political career.

Know your narrative: know your strengths and weaknesses as both a candidate and a person. For example, if you know that you aren’t the most physically coordinated person, don’t have a photo-op playing sports. Try your best to avoid putting yourself in positions that can cause embarrassment.

2) The politician’s response to the gaffe.

Get ahead of the coverage.Address the issue and sincerely apologize (without any reservations) to anyone impacted by your mistake. Had Jim Prentice came out with a sincere apology to Rachel Notley about his mistake and his comment about math, he may have been able to move past it. Had Mitt Romney had released a clarification after getting fact checked by Crowley on TV, he may not have looked like the petty person that he appeared to be during the debate.

Don’t simply ignore the gaffe and move on. Hoping nobody notices it may be your first instinct but, if you don’t deal with it, you risk losing control of the coverage of the gaffe. With social media, things can go viral very quickly and it is better to get out ahead of the gaffe before that happens.

Use self-deprecating humour to defuse the situation. Laugh at yourself just a little. In fact, if you can effectively use humour to laugh at yourself, you can make yourself a little more relatable – everyone has felt the pangs of embarrassment before. Joe Biden’s entire political career has been dogged by his embarrassing gaffes. His folksy charm and humour has allowed him to bounce back every single time.

 

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What’s a By-election and why are we having one?!

Calgary-Foothills will be having a by-election at some point before the end of November.  A previous post by My Political Consultant Marc Power, What Happened to Jim Prentice? blog May 10Anne Wilson, 2015, explains the political disaster that consumed the PCs.  On May 5, Premier Jim Prentice won in Calgary-Foothills, and in his speech that night immediately resigned the seat.  A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between general elections.

Foothills still does not have representation after a previous by-election and a general election!   This blog will outline some of the rules around by-elections, and nominations for candidates for the by-election.

When is it held? The Premier, Rachel Notley, will decide when the by-election will be, but by law the election must be before the end of November.  The exact date has not yet been announced, however it has to take place within 6 months of the new Government having been sworn in (the Executive Council was sworn in on May 24/15 and the rest of the MLAs were sworn in on June 1/15).  The premier decides when to hold the by-election, which is after an election period of likely 28 days.

Who may vote in a by-election? Only the voters in Calgary-Foothills are the eligible voters in this by-election.

How much does a by-election cost? Sadly, the estimate for a by-election is $250,000.  There’s an interesting story of the mayor of Penticton voluntarily paying for the cost of a by-election when he decided to run provincially, but there is no law to make Mr. Prentice pay for the by-election.  http://www.calgarysun.com/2015/05/13/alberta-taxpayers-cant-afford-another-costly-byelection-in-calgary-foothills-and-they-shouldnt-have-to.

The nomination for the NDP will likely be contested.  Now that the NDP is in government, the days of acclaimed nominations are over! Interestingly, there are some specific rules that will affect the potential candidates in the nomination contest.

Nomination Financing: It’s still the wild wild West when it comes to donations in a nomination contest, or as My Political Consultant says: rules, what rules?! A donor may donate any amount to a potential candidate in a nomination contest.  Elections Alberta has no reporting or accounting criteria for those donations.  This no-limit donation in a nomination is one of the rules that should be examined to see if it’s in the best interests of Albertans to have this kind of financing loop-hole.

Who may vote in a nomination contest?: Only those members  of the political party in that constituency are eligible to vote in a party’s nomination contest.

A by-election is necessary in Foothills, true, but after door-knocking in Foothill recently, I can say that Foothills doesn’t necessarily want a by-election!

Guest Blog by Anne Wilson, potential NDP candidate for Calgary-Foothills

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The Official Agent

There is no position on a campaign that gets less love than the Official Agent. They are like referees at a sporting event – you never hear about them until something goes really wrong.

The Official Agent does not just write cheques and show “Authorized by the Official Agent” on election materials.

Even though the Official Agent doesn’t get much love they are fundamentally important to any campaign – especially on large campaigns. The candidate and the Official Agent are two people on a campaign who can be held legally responsible for breaking election financing rules under the Canada Elections Act. In fact, it has happened twice in recent times – the Official Agents for former Conservative MPs Dean Del Mastro and Peter Penashue have both been charged for breaking election financing rules.  Paperwork

Anyone who is a non-bankrupt eligible voter can be an Official Agent. However, not everyone should be an Official Agent. It is a mistake for a candidate to pick someone out of sheer necessity to be their Official Agent. They should be looking for someone with a specific skill-set because the role is so crucial. This article will detail the responsibilities of someone who takes on the role of an Official Agent and give them some tips on how to effectively do their job on the campaign. As the forms and regulations can vary in each province for provincial/municipal campaigns, so I will focus on the roles of an Official Agent during federal election campaign.

Responsibilities

  • Signing Candidate’s Elections Canada documents
  • Opening a campaign bank account
  • Accepting, depositing, and tracking donations from supporters
  • Providing receipts for donations
  • Understanding and enforcing campaign donation limits – in 2015, the federal limit is $1,500 for a personal donation. Corporate and union donations are prohibited.
  • Writing cheques for campaign expenses
  • Ensure that campaign expenses fall under the federal campaign expense limit
  • Completing the Election Financing Return via EFR software
  • Working with an auditor to ensure that all expenses are properly tracked, fall under campaign finance rules, and balance with donations
  • Send completed Election Financing Return with all original documentation to Elections Canada’s auditing department with the completed independent auditor’s report prior to filing deadline.

Skill-set

When looking to fill the role of Official Agent, a candidate should be looking for someone who is:

  • Supremely organized
  • Completely trustworthy
  • Understands the ins and outs of federal election financing rules
  • Good with numbers – possibly an accountant
  • Going to be readily available throughout the campaign to issue cheques to reimburse expenses
  • Going to be available post-campaign to complete the Election Financing Return

Tips

Here are some tips for someone who has accepted the role of Official Agent:

  • Find a mentor. If you are a first time Official Agent in a federal campaign, try to find someone who has prior experience as an Official Agent. They can help answer your questions about the process (ie setting up the bank account) and using the EFR program. Stay in touch with them and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Always understand every expense. Money is spent very quickly on a campaign and receipts will pile up faster than you expect. Before you make any cheques out to anyone, make sure that you know exactly what the expense is for. This is important for two reasons – 1) because you have to categorize each expense in the Election Finance Return system, 2) You need to ensure that the expense is a legitimate expense. As the Official Agent, you will be the person who has to answer for the cheques that you write so ensure that you know why you are writing them.
  • Create a form. Ask the campaign staff to complete a form for each receipt that they claim. On that form, you should get their name, address (in case you need to mail the cheque), phone number (in case that you or the auditor have questions about the expense), date of expense, and reason for the expense. Ensure that everyone who works for the campaign knows that this form is mandatory.
  • Always photocopy every receipt. Elections Canada asks for originals of each receipt. Photocopy each receipt and put the original receipt in a safe location (that you will remember!) so that you won’t lose them. Use the photocopied receipts when you are entering the expense into EFR.
  • Regularly keep the Campaign Manager informed on current expense totals and how far the campaign is away from the expense limit. You are the one who has to ensure that the campaign does not blow past the campaign limit. Campaign Managers are the ones who generally decide what the money needs to be spent on. They should know how much room they have.
  • Don’t write expense cheques until you’ve entered the expenses into EFR software. The return is much easier if you ensure that the expenses are logged in the system before you write the cheque.
  • Do the Election Financing Return early. As soon as the election is over, election workers tend to scatter and it becomes really difficult to get answers to questions about the campaign expenses. Doing the return early also gives you time to work with the auditor to ensure that everything has been properly entered on the return and get the approval.
  • Work closely with your Auditor. The Auditor knows the process extremely well and will probably guide you to ensure that everything has been properly entered into EFR. The auditor is usually appointed by the political party and if you are not sure who the auditor is, you should contact the federal office of your party.

Being an Official Agent isn’t the easiest job in the world but it is important. Even if you don’t feel the love, rest assured that you are helping your candidate make your country a better place.

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Party Discipline and Ego

As a candidate, your name and face is plastered everywhere on your campaign – from lawn signs to literature to billboards. It would be easy to start to believe that the campaign is all about you. Unless you are running as an Independent candidate, this is simply not the case. ego

An overwhelming majority of those who are successfully elected to public office run under a party banner. Running with a party has massive benefits – supporter lists, brand recognition, financial backers, and a PR team (to name just a few).

The benefits come with some trade offs. You will likely face a vetting process to ensure that there is nothing that your opposition can use against you. This process can be stressful and potentially embarrassing but it is ultimately a means of protecting you and the party. You also will need to understand the party platform and use your personal skills to sell it to the voting public.

Hopefully, as a member of the party that you are running for, you will agree with the vast majority of the platform. However, there may be parts of the platform that you may have some disagreement with. No party is a monolith that is made up of members who agree on every detail. When you sign up to be a candidate for a party, you should accept that you won’t publicly air your grievances with those platform planks that you disagree with. The proper place to have those discussions is behind closed doors. I assure you that the party platform has been designed to help you attract the maximum amount of support because it has been thoroughly tested with potential voters.

I see party politics similar to singing in a choir. A great choir is made up a vast array of different voices who sing different parts – tenor, bass, soprano, alto, etc – but ultimately, they are all singing the same song. As soon as one person starts to sing a different song, the whole choir suffers. If you consistently deviate from the party platform and challenge it publicly, you risk bringing down every other candidate who is running under the same party banner.

Does this mean that you should become a robot who simply parrots the party talking points? Of course not. . As a candidate, you need to breathe life to the platform. Within that process you can likely massage the delivery of the message a little bit so that local voters will connect to it.

Politics demand a certain amount of ego. You need significant confidence to sell your vision and even more confidence handle the attacks that can come back at you. Party politics may ask you to suppress your ego from time to time. You may not have 100% flexibility to speak your mind in public at all time.

Remember that successful election campaigns are not vanity projects. They are true team efforts and they provide you with a wonderful opportunity to make the lives of your friends, family, and neighbours better.

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What Happened to Jim Prentice?

Jim Prentice was heralded as the “messiah” for the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.Jim Prentice

After Alison Redford’s resignation, the party was in ruins and seemed headed for certain defeat in the next election. Rumblings began to indicate that Jim Prentice might be willing to leave his comfortable job as Vice President at CIBC to run for the leadership of the sinking party.

Almost one year ago today, Jim Prentice made it official – he was in. He proceeded to trample Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk on his way to becoming PC leader and Premier. Everything was looking up for him and his party. The poll numbers had rebounded and his party won four by-elections (including his own) in October 2014.

Fast forward to May 5th, 2015. Speaking to a room of just a couple of dozen people, Prentice was fighting back tears as he gave his farewell speech as leader, Premier, and MLA of a constituency that hadn’t even finished counting its ballots. The man who seemed to destined to romp to a massive victory was the one who ended the 44 year PC dynasty as they were reduced to the third party in the Legislature. Jim Prentice was the one left holding the bag.

How did it happen?

Jim Prentice was a politician who aimed high. Upon his election as leader of the PC Party, it was obvious who he was targeting – the Wildrose and its supporters. Prentice was involved in the federal Progressive Conservative/Canadian Alliance merger in the early 2000s and it seemed clear that he needed something similar to happen provincially between his PCs and the Wildrose Party. Alison Redford’s coalition of teachers, progressives, and red tories was in flames so it seemed that the most obvious way to keep the PC juggernaut on track was the unite the right provincially.

The Wooing of Wildrose

It all started so promising. Prentice started a “De-Redfordization” process early in his reign. He sold the government planes that had been misused by her regime, dropped some of Redford’s unpopular bills (Bills 9, 10, and 45), moved her biggest boosters to the backbenches, stopped the closure of Michener Centre in Red Deer, and cancelled the inane license plate re-design. All of these easy wins were a clear statement that Alberta is under “New Management” was were taken from the Wildrose playbook.

Prentice picked noted social conservative Gordon Dirks (a Grant Devine era Saskatchewan cabinet minister) to run in Redford’s vacated constituency. This was a clear message to Wildrose supporters and members that this was no longer Redford’s party and they would be feel comfortable in the Prentice PC party.

The Liberals exploited the social progressive/social conservative split in Prentice’s PCs by introducing Bill 202 which mandated that any student who wants to start a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) could not be stopped by school administration or their school board. The party seemed to be completely unable to present a cogent response to this bill. Danielle Smith’s Wildrose generally supported it. The PCs eventually replaced Bill 202 with Bill 10 but there were substantial difference between Bill 202 and the original version of Bill 10. The unamended Bill 10 allowed a school or school board to stop a GSA but provided the student a channel – the courts – to challenge the decision. The PCs faced serious criticism for this version of the bill and they eventually had to amend the bill back to something resembling the original Bill 202.

The wooing of Wildrose members and supporters seemed to be paying off on November 24th, 2014 when Wildrose MLAs Kerry Towle and Ian Donovan crossed the floor to the Tories.  As an up and comer in the Wildrose and a personal confidante to then Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, Towle’s floor crossing seemed like a stunning betrayal of her friend and a significant blow to the Wildrose. Ian Donovan was a lesser known MLA but, as a social conservative, it was seen as a broadening of the PC base. Danielle Smith said that Towle and Donovan “will have to answer for their actions both in their constituencies and in the legislature.” On Towle, she said “We were friends, and I say that in the past tense.”

On December 17th, 2014, leader of the Official Opposition Danielle Smith and eight other Wildrose MLAs (including the majority of their front bench) crossed en masse to join the PC caucus in one of Alberta’s most shocking political developments. It appeared to be a master stroke by Prentice as it was anticipated that it would rip the heart out of the opposition Wildrose. Smith stated that she joined the PCs because she felt that they had co-opted the Wildrose agenda and that she could not in good conscience provide a strong opposition to them. Smith had also recently faced a significant rebuke from her own party in their rejection of including LGBT as a protected group in their constitution.

Albertans were not amused with the floor crossing. In fact, they were outright indignant about the development. Danielle Smith was the first person to bathe in the wrath of Albertans. Her floor crossing appeared to be a decision made of opportunism – especially after her criticism of Towle just weeks before. Albertans appreciated the effectiveness of the opposition that her caucus provided and didn’t appreciate seeing the first Leader of the Official Opposition in Canadian history jump ship to the governing party.

In spite of how angry Albertans were about the floor crossing, the PCs got a bounce in the polls. They looked to be  cruising to victory on election day (which appeared to be coming sooner rather than later).

Jim Prentice had a template for a merger that proved successful with the federal Canadian Alliance/PC merger. He could have put out a formal plan for merger between the two parties and negotiate in good faith between the two parties. He didn’t use that template. He took a shortcut and the incredibly hard feelings left behind with the remaining Wildrose supporters would bite him later.

The Ides of March

March was the beginning of the end for the PC dynasty.

In an interview with CBC Radio, Jim Prentice seemed to blame Albertans for the fiscal mess that the province was facing. He seemed to discount the role of PC government fiscal decisions in causing the fiscal crunch. #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans instantly became a twitter sensation and it showed that Prentice had a propensity for making unforced errors.

PC nomination scandals in Edmonton Meadowlark and Edmonton Ellerslie only compounded the Prentice’s problems. There were allegations of bribery in both nomination races.

On March 26th, 2015, the government revealed the dreaded “radical” budget that Prentice had referred to in various media appearances. It had dozens and dozens of tax increases including a health levy, a progressive income tax, an increase of sin taxes and gas tax, and a cut to the tax credit for charitable donations. The average family would be on the hook for hundreds if not thousands of additional taxes and fees each year. It froze spending in education and cut spending in health care. There would be no change to the corporate tax rate or to oil and gas royalties. This was not the kind of budget that politicians choose to introduce just prior to an election. It was an odd choice. Maybe they were trying to capitalize on the fact that the Wildrose Party was leaderless and might not have been able to respond. However, this budget threw the Wildrose a huge lifeline and created a clear message for them going into the election.

Days after the budget, Danielle Smith lost her PC nomination bid in Highwood. Smith’s loss was a black eye for Prentice. Prentice had senior cabinet ministers campaigning for her. Some say that he didn’t do enough for her. She lost and the idea of bringing the two parties together was officially dead.

The same night as Smith lost her nomination bid, the Wildrose elected former Conservative MP Brian Jean as their new leader. The Wildrose Party ran a very quiet leadership race that garnered significantly less media attention than Smith’s bid to keep her seat in the Legislature. The party was still standing – in spite of being written off by just about everyone.

At the end of March, a stunning poll was released that showed that the Wildrose wasn’t just surviving but was actually tied for first place…within weeks of an election call! The lustre was officially off of the Prentice regime.

The Campaign

On April 7th, 2015, Jim Prentice visited the Lieutenant Governor and dropped the writ. The election was 11 months after he was elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives and one year before the PCs own legislated election period. The election was called for May 5th, 2015. His rationale for the election call was the need to seek a mandate for the budget that he had introduced.

Brian Jean had been elected leader of his party for less than two weeks when the writ was dropped. This fact could not have been lost on Prentice and it was not lost on Albertans. Prentice’s election call looked craven and unnecessary. He looked to be trying to wipe his opposition off the map again.

Prentice could have easily called an election right after his election as leader. He could have asked for a mandate to do the things he needed to do as his government was going to be markedly different from the one led by Redford. He didn’t. He could have easily waited to call an election in April of 2016 as per the election period law. He didn’t.

The PCs tied their campaign to two things: 1) Prentice and his apparent popularity; 2) the budget.

Prentice’s name was on all of the campaign literature, signs, and TV ads. Unfortunately for the PCs, he was not nearly as popular as the PCs might have hoped. He was grim – in fact, his speeches should have included a Prozac for each listener. He was an anchor on his own party’s success.

The budget was an unmitigated disaster. Politics 101 dictates that you don’t go into an election after a bad news budget. Who wants to vote for a party that promises to take hundreds or thousands of dollars from your pocket if they win? One would think a party that had won 12 straight provincial elections would have figured this out.

Early in the campaign, Prentice backtracked on one of the most contentious aspects of his budget – the cut to the charitable donation tax credit. He refused to budge on a corporate tax increase even though maverick PC MLA Thomas Lukaszuk indicated during the campaign that he’d like to see the PCs to consider it.

Polls done early in the campaign showed that the race was tightening into a three way horse race between the PCs, Wildrose, and NDP. The Wildrose was invigorated by the budget and the stability provided by Brian Jean’s leadership. The NDP was well-organized and was running a professional campaign led by the very capable Rachel Notley.

The Leader’s Debate was a true turning point for the campaign. Jim Prentice turned his back to both Brian Jean and David Swann and focused almost exclusively on NDP leader Rachel Notley. For a sitting Premier to zoom in on the fourth party leader was fascinating. Prentice basically told every Albertan that the PCs had internal polling data that indicated that the NDP was surging and he need to stop that from continuing. Notley was not phased whatsoever. She handled his charges with a smile and successfully counter-punched each time. Prentice made Notley look like a premier. Prentice looked at best like the leader of the opposition.  He made a crucial error when he misspoke during a discussion on corporate taxes and then condescendingly said “I know that math is difficult, Rachel.” He could not have possibly looked less like a man deserving to be Premier. Had Prentice ignored Notley and focused on his own message, the results of the election may have been quite different.

Notley who already had momentum on her side before the debate was an unstoppable force after the election. The PCs tried to paint the NDP as scary similarly to how they effectively painted the Wildrose as scary in 2012. This was a relatively feeble attempt for two reasons: 1) By the time Prentice started to go on the attack against the NDP, the PCs were behind the NDP and the Wildrose. At a glance, the Wildrose looked to be the party that had the best chance of stopping the NDP; 2) It seemed that many Wildrose voters were so frustrated with the PCs and their corruption and opportunism that they’d rather elect an NDP government than another PC government.Photo taken by Jeff MacIntosh

On May 5th, 2015, the Alberta NDP ended the PC dynasty in convincing fashion. The PCs were reduced to the third party in the Legislature and will be seeking a new leader who has a huge task on their hands to try to rebuild the party.

List of Prentice/PC Mistakes

  • Mishandling of Bill 202/Bill 10
  • Not following the Canadian Alliance/PC template to formally merge the PCs and Wildrose. Instead they tried to opportunistically destroy the Wildrose.
  • Blames Albertans for the fiscal mistakes
  • Edmonton Meadowlark, Edmonton Ellerslie, Chestermere Rockyview nomination scandals
  • The entire budget
  • The timing of the election call
  • Building the campaign around Prentice and the budget
  • Making Notley the star of the Leader’s Debate
  • “Math is difficult, Rachel”

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Life in Public

As a candidate or an elected official, your personal life becomes far less personal and far more public. Everything you do can become public information. This is a trade off that you have made for the opportunity to make the change that you want in your area.

Here are some tips on handling public life:

  • Don’t lose touch with family and friends

Any political figure lives a very busy life. It is more important than ever to be close to your friends and family. They know you better than anyone else and know you beyond the persona that the media presents. It is easy to “live in a bubble” in politics where you get so wrapped up in a campaign or in government that you become disconnected from what is really happening in the world. Your friends and family can help burst that bubble and bring you back to real life. Also when times get tough, they will be there for you when everyone else around you might scatter. Call them whenever you have a free moment.

  • Social media is not your friend

One mistake on social media can destroy a career. You may think you are clever but you probably aren’t. What might be funny to you could be offensive to everyone else. Use social media to share important events and speak to issues. To be safe, designate someone who you trust to handle your social media presence. Make it clear with them what your expectations are.

  • Designate one friend as your outlet

In the extremely stressful world of politics, you have to be “on” all of the time. You can be having a terrible day where everything is going wrong but you can’t let your staff, volunteers, or media know about how rough things are going. You should have one trusted person in your life with whom you can “vent”. They can give you advice or they simply listen to you. This person could be your significant other but I don’t recommend it. They are also dealing with public life by being in a relationship with you and they also feel the stress. You don’t want to stress them out any further.

  • Don’t “google” yourself

You might be tempted to read reviews of the awesome speech that you gave but the internet is full of miserable anonymous people who say terrible things about public figures. From a public figure’s weight to their clothing choices, there really is nothing off limits for these people to comment on. Unless you have a ridiculously thick skin, it is best not to read what they say.

  • Be nice to journalists

They are trying to do their job and usually want to make you look good. It can be a symbiotic relationship. If you have an antagonistic relationship with them, don’t expect flattering articles about you.

  • Watch your drinking

Public life is stressful and it can involve a lot of travel which can be rather lonely. If you find that you start drinking too much as means to coping with the stress or loneliness from public life, seek help.

  • Depression is very serious

Everyone goes through ups and downs in their life. If you start to feel as if you are stuck in the depths of despair and can’t find a way to get out of it, you might be afraid to do anything about it out of fear of looking weak or hurting your poll numbers. Depression can be fatal and should never be ignored. Please seek help by telling a trusted colleague.

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10 Things to Watch on the eve of Alberta’s 2015 Election

As a tumultuous campaign comes to a close, many people will make predictions about the results of election.

I am not one of those people.

Everything seems to be pointing to a major breakthrough for the Alberta NDP and a historic collapse of a PC dynasty, but until the final vote is counted, the power of determining who Alberta’s governing party will be is in the hands of Alberta’s voters.

Here are some things to watch:

Photo taken by Jeff MacIntosh

1) How motivated are each party’s supporters to vote?

The momentum is clearly with the New Democrats in this election. One would think that their voters are more likely to show up at the polls than supporters of a party that appears to be in a steep decline. The PCs have been weighed down by their budget, scandals, and the ineffectiveness of their leader and one might think this might depress their voters into complacency. However, the PCs (and more recently Wildrose) has run a scare campaign that has targeted the NDP. It is unlikely to sway many NDP supporters but I believe that never really was its purpose. The scare campaign is designed to motivate right wing voters to get out on election day. We will see how effective the campaign has been in tomorrow’s results.

2) The Get Out The Vote effort

The Alberta PCs are known for their “on the ground” team. You don’t win 12 straight elections without some sort of skill with pulling the vote out. For what they lack in success in the polls, they make up in organizational strength throughout the province. The NDP is strong in Edmonton and has been building strength in some constituencies in Calgary and Lethbridge but much of the province does not have a “machine” that will pull out the vote. As such, they will be relying on their voters to show up on their own. In 2011, the federal NDP was able to win dozens of ridings in Quebec where they had nobody on the ground because their voters were so motivated that they didn’t need any help to get out to the voting booth. They may need a repeat of that tomorrow.

3) Vote Splits

Alberta hasn’t seen a three way race in decades. Many regions of the province are neck, neck, and neck. This lower threshold for victory could elect MLAs from any of the three main parties.

4) The Incumbency Factor

Incumbency is usually a huge advantage for an elected official. Over the past few years, we’ve seen recently several governments get re-elected that few anticipated would pull off a victory. Redford’s PCs, Selinger’s NDP, McGuinty’s and Wynne’s Liberals, and Clark’s BC Liberals all have stolen victory from near certain defeat. In Alberta, incumbency may not have the desired effect though. The zeitgeist that seems to be pervasive seems to be a hunger for change. The Alberta PCs seem to be stained by scandals and fiscal mismanagement and Albertans seem to have finally gotten into the “Throw the Bums Out” mentality that usually happens after any government has been around for more than a couple of terms. The Alberta PCs have had 12 terms! This “Throw the Bums Out” mentality turns incumbency into a huge liability.

5) The “Liberal-less” constituencies

The Liberals have only fielded 56 candidates in 87 constituencies and their campaign has fizzled. In the 31 constituencies without a Liberal candidate, one would expect the Alberta NDP to benefit. Many of the 31 constituencies without a Liberal candidate are rural with a possible Wildrose/PC split. This lowered threshold of victory combined with the lack of a Liberal candidate and the NDP surge, could elect NDP MLAs in ridings outside of Edmonton, Calgary, and Lethbridge.

6) The Hockey Game

Much like the Alberta NDP, the plucky Calgary Flames have come out of nowhere to find success! In an unfortunate scheduling conflict, the Flames play a home playoff game on Tuesday at 7:30pm. This means that almost 20,000 Calgarians will be at (or in transit to) the Saddledome during prime voting hours. Hundreds of thousands of people will be glued to their TV in hope that their beloved Flames can find a way to get back in the series. This may impact the already low voter turnout that tends to plague Alberta.

7) Will the Alberta Liberals win any seats at all?

If anyone asked me a week or two ago, I would say that both David Swann’s and Laurie Blakeman’s seats are very safe Liberal seats. I no longer believe that to be true. The NDP has surged to such heights in Edmonton that the Orange Wave might take Blakeman out to sea. Swann is more safe in his seat but he has had to spend an awful lot of time in his own constituency for a party leader and that has hurt the Liberal campaign as a whole. The Liberals have a chance in both Calgary Buffalo and McCall but, without Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang, those seats will be up for grabs.

8) Will the Wildrose have a breakthrough in Calgary?

The PC decline has created three way races in Calgary. The NDP surge has put them within striking distance of almost every constituency in the city. They have done this by stripping votes from both the PCs and Liberals. This surge could also help the Wildrose as their threshold for victory in many constituencies has been lowered.

9) Can Greg Clark defeat Gordon Dirks in Calgary Elbow?

If you’ve read any posts that I’ve made about the provincial election, you’ll note that I don’t talk much about the Alberta Party. The reason for that is because for the Alberta Party, this campaign is not an 87 constituency campaign. It is a one constituency campaign. They need to win Elbow. They simply can’t afford to lose here. All of their resources have gone into this campaign and losing it could mean it is game over for them.

10) How many seats will the NDP win in Calgary?

It would prove to be a massive boon to the NDP’s long term success to establish a beachhead in Calgary. Calgary Fort and Varsity seem to be going orange this election. The NDP has a good chance of winning in Klein, Mountainview, Currie, and Buffalo as well.

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Grading the Campaigns

In my post The Paths to Success for Alberta’s Political Parties, I outlined what it would take for each party to be successful. With just a few days left on the campaign, let’s look at how they’ve done.report

Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta

What did they need to do?

  • Avoid treating the election as a necessary evil. The PCs have governed for almost 44 years and have to avoid coming off as arrogant and dismissive of democratic structures.
  • Continue to occupy the majority of the centre right of the political spectrum while pushing the Wildrose further to the fringe right.
  • Prentice needs to avoid making unforced errors throughout the campaign. He has proven that he has a penchant for walking himself into mistakes (ie blaming Albertans, candidate nomination messes, Bill 10, mishandling the floor crossing) and under the pressure of a campaign, mistakes like these are far more likely.
  • Successfully sell the need for a budget that included billions of dollars of increased taxes.
  • Divorce themselves from the PC policies that created the fiscal hole that Alberta government is in.
  • Frame the election as a PC vs NDP battle. This would marginalize both the Wildrose and Liberals and would allow the PCs to pick up potential “blue Liberal” voters in Calgary and Edmonton while picking up moderate Wildrose supporters.

How have they done?

Jim Prentice has run on his name and on his budget. Both have become anchors that have dragged down his campaign. He has not been able to avoid coming off as arrogant and his downer personality has been off-putting. He has continued to cause unforced errors (ie “Math is Hard) and his campaign has been unable to prove agile enough to get back on course. He has framed the election as a PC vs NDP battle but by the time he did so, the PCs had sunk pretty deep and was in third place in the polls. The fearmongering against the NDP hasn’t proved particularly effective thus far and it appears that the end is nigh for the PC dynasty.

Grade: F

Wildrose Party of Alberta

What did they need to do?

  • Spend significant resources to build Brian Jean’s media profile.
  • Capitalize on the opening presented by the tax increases in the budget to build a compelling case for a strong fiscally conservative opposition.
  • Focus on the constituencies that they currently represent and target a few additional constituencies that have weak incumbents. Don’t stretch resources too thin.
  • Determine if they will present themselves as a rural right wing populist party or a bigger tent conservative party that will compete on Prentice’s turf. The rural populist route would allow them to consolidate their base but could turn them into back into the rural rump that they were under Paul Hinman. If they go the other route and take on Prentice by following Smith’s original plan to moderate the party, they may alienate their rural base but they could build in the urban centres to help set them up for future elections.
  • Avoid any “bozo eruptions” from candidates throughout the election campaign.

How have they done?

Brian Jean and his team have run an under the radar campaign. It has been very quiet – especially compared to the Danielle Smith show of 2012. Other than two candidates in Calgary who were promptly punted, Jean has effectively kept his candidates from “bozo eruptions”. Jean himself didn’t exactly wow anyone at his debate (unless you are wowed by mindless repetition of one talking point) but he also hasn’t embarrassed himself. Jean has also been able to provide stability to a party that seemed to be teetering on the verge of extinction. He has done this by effectively focusing on fiscal issues and capitalizing on the opportunity provided by the tax increases in Prentice’s budget. Early in the campaign it appeared that the Wildrose had a legitimate shot of a minority government but their polling numbers have receded back towards the mid twenties.

Grade: B+

Alberta Liberals

What did they need to do?

  • The Liberals have the lowest bar to reach to obtain success but face the largest hurdles to obtain it.
  • David Swann has to outperform expectations throughout the campaign.
  • They need to keep the election from becoming an absolute PC romp or a horse race between either the PCs/WR or PCs/NDP
  • A stronger Wildrose presence would split the right vote and subsequently lower the percentage of vote required to elect a Liberal MLA.
  • They will likely need mistakes from either Prentice or Notley to capitalize on.
  • They need to focus their resources on just a few ridings to maintain their presence in the Legislature.
  • They need to fight back the NDP surge in Edmonton to allow them to retake seats in a future election. The Liberals would be better served with re-elected PC MLAs in Edmonton than new NDP MLAs.

How have they done?

Things have not gone well for the Liberals. They were marginalized early when they could only run a slate of 56 candidates out of 87 constituencies and it has only gotten worse throughout the campaign. The PC/NDP “horse race” has proven devastating as most progressive Liberals have moved to the NDP and what is left behind are die hard Liberals – of which there are very few. David Swann was not able to surprise at the debate by outperforming expectations. He was unable keep the debate from turning into the Prentice/Notley show. They have had little media presence throughout the campaign and will be relying on Swann’s and Blakeman’s personal brands to maintain any presence in the Legislature.

Grade: D-

Alberta’s NDP

What did they need to do?

  • Need to frame election as a choice between PCs and NDP – marginalizing both the Wildrose and Liberals. They have to become the “anyone but PC” option.
  • Need to put Rachel Notley front and centre. She is a huge asset.
  • Party platform needs to have at least a few ambitious party planks to excite their base. They need to learn lessons from Ontario, BC, and Nova Scotia where the NDP tried to “broaden their base” but forgot their base. Particular in Ontario and Nova Scotia, the NDP was outflanked to the left by the Liberals and this alienated many of the party’s traditional supporters and volunteers.
  • Put forward a compelling clean energy strategy that does not demonize oil companies. Many Albertans (particularly Calgarians) see working in oil and gas as a means to provide for their families and do not want those jobs to go away.
  • Present a clear progressive alternative to the tax increases in Prentice’s budget. Don’t allow the Prentice tax increases (ie largely personal consumption taxes/user fees) sour Albertans on progressive tax options.

How have they done?

Despite a tiny campaign budget, the NDP has been able to galvanize Albertans for change. They’ve done it by running an agile campaign that has been able to react quickly to capitalize on the mistakes of the PCs and to also mitigate their own mistakes (budget miscalculation, bad press on Northern Gateway, social media mistake with targeting PC candidates). Rachel Notley has been the star of the campaign and her debate performance was spectacular. She was able to brush off Prentice’s attacks with a smile and effective counter attack when necessary without sounding angry or scary. The NDP didn’t fall into the trap of “tinkering around the edges” like the Ontario NDP did in the earlier campaign – instead, the party has motivated their base by offering an ambitious agenda that is unabashedly NDP. Most importantly, they had the best salesperson for that platform in Rachel Notley.

Grade: A

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