Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Selinger is the most popular candidate with the public

A poll conducted for the Free Press by Probe Research suggests that Selinger is the most popular candidate among the general public. The poll was conducted prior to Swan's concession, and concluded that Selinger was the favoured candidate for 27% of Manitobans, compared with 12% for Ashton, 9% for Swan, and 3% for poor John Boehm (remember him?) That leaves a lot of respondents unaccounted for, of course. On the article there's a comment by "wolfrom" saying this means Selinger comes second to "none of the above", but this is unfair; looking at the details on Probe's own site (hat tip to Endless Spin Cycle for the link) we see that only 8% said "none of these", with the remaining 41% simply saying "don't know" or refusing to answer. Big difference.

Nonetheless, it remains the case that the general public is not selecting a leader; the NDP membership is (via delegates, of course). It does, however, mean that Selinger, if he wins, has a good chance of winning the public owner, contrary to some fears. Looking further at the results from the Probe site, Selinger is the favoured candidate among supporters of all the major parties; interestingly, Swan and Ashton do slightly better among Liberal and Tory supporters than among the general population. Furthermore, Selinger came out on top in every demographic category examined in the poll (broken down by sex, age, income, and education).

Of course, the $64,000 question is how this will sway people in the remaining delegate selection meetings (and in uncommitted delegates). It can't hurt Selinger's chances, at least.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More on the suddenly narrowed leadership contest

Today's Free Press has an updated tally, albeit not by riding; this assigns 353 delegates to Ashton, 319 to Selinger, and 105 unaffiliated (including those originally pledged to Swan). I still stand by my prediction that nearly all the Swan supporters will jump to Selinger.

There is also a rather critical column by Dan Lett on Swan's decision to step down. Now I agree that it makes for a less interesting race, but it's a bit harsh to criticize Swan for his choice. I think this comment to the column sums it up admirably:
I think that Andrew Swan should be applauded for his realistic assessment of his situation. It is unlikely he could ever have come up the middle. It is one leadership convention too soon for him. In the process, he has likely curried some serious favour with Mr. Selinger, which isn't a bad thing.
I also doubt that this harms Swan's future prospects as much as Lett thinks it does -- I hardly think he has "closed the book on future leadership bids". We haven't seen the last of Andrew Swan by any means.

Conservative candidate dropped for... telling the truth?

As we know, Harper likes to keep a tight grip on his MPs. Needless to say, the same goes for prospective MPs, which might explain why this happened:
A moment of candour has cost Gordon Landon a shot at federal politics.

Landon was dumped Monday as the Conservative candidate for Markham-Unionville after publicly musing the GTA riding was being shut out of federal infrastructure funding because it is held by a Liberal.

The York regional councillor says he complied with a request from the Conservative party to step aside, adding he is not used to people telling him what to say and think.

Hat tip to Green Assassin Brigade for the link.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Swan out of race

It's over for Andrew Swan. Until the results from The Pas came in yesterday, Swan had reason to fight on, since if Frank Whitehead had managed to bring his supporters with him, that would have been some 120 delegates, which would have brought him within striking distance of Ashton. It would still have been an uphill battle, but he might have been able to at least hope to overtake Ashton and see what happened on the second ballot. That hope has now evaporated, and Swan has, quite sensibly, decided to wait till next time. And I don't think we've seen the last of Andrew Swan by any means; as a (relatively) young MLA in a secure constituency, he potentially has a long political career ahead of him.

So what does this do to the race? Well, in one sense his resignation obviously helps Selinger... but he wouldn't have quit if he'd won The Pas, and Ashton winning The Pas helps him considerably. According to this article, the count prior to the meeting in The Pas was 319 for Selinger, 224 for Ashton, 70 for Swan, and 33 undeclared. I don't have the exact numbers from The Pas yet, but I think it was pretty much a sweep for Ashton, so assuming he gets all 120, and all the Swan delegates go to Selinger, this puts it at 389 for Selinger and 344 for Ashton. Given that there are a couple of huge ridings yet to come, as well as a significant number of delegates selected by the labour movement, it would be foolish to count Ashton out at this point.

Friday, September 25, 2009

US census worker lynched in rural Kentucky

I bet the teabaggers are proud of themselves:
The FBI is investigating whether the death of a U.S. Census worker found hanged from a tree in Kentucky is linked to anti-government sentiment.

When Bill Sparkman told retired trooper Gilbert Acciardo that he was going door-to-door collecting census data in rural Kentucky, the former cop drew on years of experience for a warning: "Be careful."

The 51-year-old Sparkman was found this month hanged from a tree near a Kentucky cemetery with the word "fed" scrawled on his chest, a law enforcement official said Wednesday.

"Even though he was with the Census Bureau, sometimes people can view someone with any government agency as 'the government.' I just was afraid that he might meet the wrong character along the way up there," said Acciardo, who directs an after-school program at an elementary school where Sparkman was a frequent substitute teacher.

The Census Bureau has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, until the investigation is complete, an official said.

From the Toronto Star.

Edited to add: The official story now seems to be that it was a suicide made to look like homicide for insurance purposes. I suppose that's possible, but I also know that investigation of certain kinds of crimes is sketchy in some of those areas. Still, you'd think the FBI (who were involved in the investigation) would take seriously any attack on federal agents, because they could easily be next. Of course, that's no guarantee that the state police will follow any advice the FBI might have offered...

Super Thursday preliminary results

Andrew Swan is now on the board in a significant way, having reportedly taken all 23 delegates from Seine River, all 19 from St. Vital, and 21 of the 23 from Southdale (the other two in that constituency went to Greg Selinger). Meanwhile, Selinger has swept St. John's (20 delegates), Carman (20), Morris (5), St. James (12), and Lakeside (15). Ashton has won River East (19 delegates), Rossmere (41), and Springfield (8 out of 10 delegates, with the other two going to Selinger). Most interesting, though, is Concordia, for which 25 out of 30 delegates came from a slate described in the Free Press as a "non-aligned" slate. The remainder of Concordia's delegates support Ashton, which allows a reasonable guess as to who the other 25 won't support...

So the margin has narrowed somewhat, but I'd still put money on Selinger winning this contest on the 17th of October.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The race goes on...

Yesterday Ashton picked up all 31 delegates in Radisson and at least 9 in Transcona. Selinger got 4 from Transcona, while 5 delegates inexplicably appeared on both Selinger's and Ashton's slates. Go figure. Kildonan reportedly went mostly to Selinger as well, though Swan picked up a couple. Unfortunately I don't have detailed numbers on these yet.

Super Thursday results are still pending, but in the meantime some interesting policy announcements came out. The boldest so far has been the fact that Ashton would consider bringing in anti-scab legislation. Interesting idea, and something the Manitoba NDP has taken heat for not introducing; I wonder if he can follow through, though. Ashton also announced yesterday that if he wins he'll move forward with extending bus rapid transit through Elmwood and Transcona. I've got to hand it to him, he's making some good policy proposals. Selinger, meanwhile, has promised extra tax credits for small business and improved training and job opportunities for the aboriginal community and the north, while Swan has announced policies on crime and public-private partnerships.

Harper boycotts Ahmadinejad's speech... and Obama's

We've all heard by now how our illustrious PM wants to show how enlightened he is by boycotting the address to the UN General Assembly by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ostensibly based on the latter's comments about the Holocaust. Well, as pogge points out, he's undermining this by not showing up at Obama's speech either:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, travelling in the United States this week, will be a no-show during U.S. President Barack Obama's address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday morning.

The White House press office says Mr. Obama's speech starts at 9:15 a.m., but the Prime Minister's Office says Mr. Harper is scheduled to be back in Canada for an event in Oakville, Ont, at 11:30 a.m.

The reason? Mr. Harper's making a stop at something called the Tim Hortons Innovation Centre.

Source. I hope he enjoys the donuts... Well no, actually I hope he chokes to death on one, but whatever.

Rising seas create first climate refugees

It's not hypothetical any more:
When sharks started showing up in the garden, Ursula Rakova knew her home and native islands were doomed.

And so the exodus is now underway for Rakova, 43, and the other 1,700 residents of the Carteret Islands, who are in the process of abandoning their ancestral coral atoll 86 kilometres off the coast of Papua New Guinea for higher ground before the sea takes everything. But they will not go quietly, says Rakova, who is in New York City this week forlornly staking a claim for her people as the world's first climate-change refugees.

"The signs are clear: we used to have storms during the rainy season. Now we cannot predict it because they come more frequent and stronger," she said. "We built seawalls and planted mangroves but it gets worse. Last Christmas the storms destroyed homes and the food gardens were devastated. Now we know the sea will wash over our islands. It is heartbreaking but we have to leave."

From the Toronto Star, via Green Assassin Brigade.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And the race continues:

Never Eat Yellow Snow has posted the tally of delegates so far, including elected officials (who are automatically delegates apparently). I won't repost all the details (go there if you're interested) but the totals are: Selinger 73, Ashton 18, and Swan 12 (of them, Swan is the only one who hasn't received any delegates at the meetings). He also predicts that Selinger will take both ridings being run tonight. I agree that Selinger will take Fort Rouge easily, but I'm less sure about River Heights; ridings not held by the NDP are often ripe for massive membership campaigns, so Ashton could well grab that riding like he did Tuxedo. We'll have to see.

Edited to add: I should have known better than to second-guess NEYS (who has been right about pretty much everything except Frank Whitehead's endorsement). River Heights, like Fort Rouge, was a sweep for Selinger (24 delegates in Fort Rouge, 21 in River Heights).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Selinger takes early lead

Today's Winnipeg Free Press notes that Greg Selinger is in the lead:

After a painfully chaotic evening of voting, former finance minister Greg Selinger appears to have a very early lead in the race to be premier.

Selinger, who is battling two other candidates for the NDP leadership, won at least 29 out of the 42 delegates up for grabs from three ridings Sunday evening. Steve Ashton won most, if not all, of the rest.

Furthermore, as noted in the story, Selinger has received the endorsement of CUPE president Paul Moist. Swan's got some catching up to do...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Or maybe not...

A lot seems to have happened since yesterday's post. Andrew Swan's website now has this:

Reports in the Winnipeg Free Press today suggest that The Pas MLA Frank Whitehead and AMC Chief Ron Evans endorsed NDP leadership candidate Andrew Swan yesterday based in part on a promise to reopen the negotiations on the location of the Bipole lll transmission line. According to all three men, this suggestion is baseless.

“The only commitment made by Andrew was an agreement that he would meet with as many First Nations as possible, including all First Nations on the east-side of Lake Winnipeg, during his first year as Premier,” Whitehead said. “As I said at the announcement yesterday, the areas of concern for aboriginal people are economic development and education and training and Andrew underlined strongly that he shares those concerns and will work with us.”

“There was no quid pro quo for our endorsement as it pertains to Bipole III. We chose Andrew because we believe he is the best leader for today and tomorrow.” said Whitehead.”Any suggestion otherwise is incorrect.”

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Ron Evans stated categorically that at no time did he suggest to others that there was a deal on the table to re-visit the location of Bipole III.

“I want to be crystal clear on the Bipole lll issue because I know how important it is to Manitoba’s future, said Swan. “After extensive consultation with stakeholders, the decision on the location of Bipole lll was made. I believed the decision was the right one then, and I believe it is the right one today. I look forward to hearing all ideas about how we can create a better future in all regions of Manitoba, and I am willing to work with all communities to see that happen.”

All pretty benign actually; it seems he wants simply to see what the east side communities think of the process. Which makes me wonder why the Free Press would be so sloppy. Perhaps they want to revisit the issue; that would explain why they dug up this guy at the same time as yesterday's apparently misleading story. He's a fellow with Manitoba Hydro who thinks the west side route is badly misguided. Now I can't comment on the correctness of his argument, but surely he was around when the west side route first was discussed, and my guess is that the concerns he raises have been addressed already. But the paper needs to stir the pot... In any case, so far this morning neither the Free Press nor the Sun seems to have published Swan's clarification.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Swan revisits east-side hydro debate

Whoa... didn't see this coming:

A controversial plan to build a $2-billion hydro transmission line down the west side of the province might not be totally carved in stone thanks to political jockeying in the race to replace Premier Gary Doer.

NDP leadership hopeful Andrew Swan said Friday he would visit the 16 First Nations communities on the east side of the province in his first year as premier to hear what they think of the new power line -- a line many say if built down the east side of Lake Winnipeg will open up a largely forgotten part of the province.

From the Winnipeg Free Press. To be fair, Swan is far from committed to changing the existing plan; he acknowledges that most of the east side communities don't want the Bipole. And given that Newfoundland has backed down on their plans to put a power line through Gros Morne National Park owing to the effect this might have on its World Heritage Site status, I suspect that nothing will come of this. The main effect here is to bring the controversy back into the public sphere, and give Hugh McFadyen the opportunity to talk about it again.

Dan Lett discusses some of the issues involved here. First Nations communities are far from unanimous on the Bipole, and Evans and Whitehead seem to want the east side route to be reconsidered. Hmm.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A big coup for Swan

A couple of potentially significant endorsements for Andrew Swan came in today. One was from Ron Evans, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Potentially even bigger, though, is The Pas MLA (and former OCN chief) Frank Whitehead. As previously noted, the recent by-election campaign there led to a large number of members being signed up, which means that the riding is eligible for over a hundred delegates. The thing is, the way delegates are selected is by block voting, which works much the same way school trustees are elected in most places. So if the riding is eligible for, say, 20 delegates, as a voter you would mark up to twenty of the delegate candidates. Since the campaign for each candidate will likely field a slate, the likely result will be a winner-take-all situation, so that all 20 delegates will be supporters of the most popular candidate. It thus ends up being somewhat like the electoral college system for choosing the US president. So this could have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the convention, though not necessarily decisive.

On the other hand, it's far from clear whether they will be able to find as many delegates as they're eligible for, and it's possible that depending on who actually shows up at their delegate selection meeting (you're not likely to get a thousand people to come to the meeting), the members who actually attend might favour one of the other candidates. So while the effect will be significant, it's less clear who this will favour, though the odds probably favour Swan taking that riding.

In future leadership races I'd like to see this changed, perhaps by using the single transferable vote method to elect delegates. That way there'd be more proportionate results. I wonder if there will be any appetite for this at the next provincial convention?

Incidentally, this seems to be the first wrong prediction that Don't Eat Yellow Snow has made so far; here he had picked Whitehead to back Selinger.

Selinger did pick up a couple of notable supporters today as well; according to this article Fort Rouge/East Fort Garry city councillor Jenny Gerbasi and former provincial cabinet minister Muriel Smith have endorsed him.

Edit: Endless Spin Cycle has crunched the numbers, concluding that there will be around 1400 delegates in total at the convention, including the "superdelegates", giving a magic number of 700. So it's unlikely that anyone will win this on the first ballot in any case.

Neville introduces bill to ban cat, dog fur products

Liberal MP Anita Neville has introduced a private member's bill to ban the sale and import of cat and dog fur. Now I'm not keen on coats made of these materials, but there's something kind of funny about this. If she wanted to ban all fur or, more realistically, require any fur sold to be certified as meeting minimum standards (including inspections of facilities, whether it's a mink farm or a cat farm), I'd have more respect; as it stands, it comes across as a case of "OMG! People who look different from us are killing animals different from the ones we kill!"

Plug-in hybrids, summer jobs for inner-city youth among latest promises

Greg Selinger wants to create a centre of excellence at Red River College for plug-in hybrid cars (source). Makes a fair bit of sense, given how much hydroelectric capacity we have in this province. In fact, the college has already been adding plug-in functionality to some older Priuses, giving them a 40 km electric-only range. The province's fleet is expected to have nine of these vehicles by December, just in time for the biggest test plug-in vehicles will face in Manitoba. Ironically, Selinger himself does far better than that with his own commute; he frequently rides a bicycle to work. He also picked up one more endorsement -- Science, Technology, Energy, and Mines Minister Jim Rondeau.

Meanwhile, from the same article, Steve Ashton has set an ambitious target for dealing with child poverty -- ensuring that every inner-city youth has a job. He hopes to accomplish this by "working with private businesses to create openings" but no further details are given. He also vows to increase the minimum wage every year, and create a minimum of 300 affordable housing units per year for the next five years.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rebates for students, and other leadership campaign news

Greg Selinger advocates making tax rebates for students available when they're still students:
NDP leadership candidate Greg Selinger vowed Wednesday to help lighten the financial burden for post-secondary students by fast-tracking income tax refunds on school tuition.

Selinger said, if elected party leader, he would let students collect rebates on tuition fees while they were still attending classes. Now, those rebates are paid after graduation to students who remain in the province.

He told reporters Wednesday the revisions would give students intending to live and work in Manitoba more money in their pockets when they need it most.

"The bottom line is you get it (the refund) when you need it," he told reporters Wednesday, using the student cafeteria at College universitaire de Saint Boniface as a backdrop.

Sid Rashid, president of the University of Manitoba Students' Union, welcomed the announcement.

"It's effectively turning a back-end tax credit into a front-end grant," he said of the Selinger proposal.

From the Winnipeg Free Press. Meanwhile, Steve Ashton takes a different approach, namely restoring the tuition freeze.

Andrew Swan has picked up a big endorsement from Local 832 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. While some union leaders have made endorsements as individuals (notably United Firefighters of Winnipeg leader Alex Forrest, who's backing Ashton, and MFL president Darlene Dziewit, who backs Swan) I believe this is the first big union to endorse a candidate as an organization.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lemieux calls Greyhound's bluff.. and wins the first round

Yesterday our intrepid Transport Minister challenged Greyhound to reveal exactly which routes were unprofitable before he'd commit to a bailout. Well, today they announced that they're not going to cease operations in Manitoba just yet:

There will be no disruption of Greyhound bus service as expected Oct. 2 nor any layoffs, CBC News has confirmed.

Manitoba Transport Minister Ron Lemieux said the provincial government and the bus company have agreed to keep negotiating.

Another meeting between the two sides is scheduled for next month, Lemieux said.

Source. We're not out of the woods yet, of course, but kudos to Lemieux for what he's achieved so far.

What do a socialist and a libertarian have in common?

They both want to audit the Federal Reserve:
After decades of pushing long-shot causes like abolishing the income tax and reinstating the gold standard, Republican Representative Ron Paul finds himself in an unaccustomed spot: on the cusp of legislative victory.

A majority of the libertarian-leaning Texan's colleagues in the House of Representatives support his proposal to increase congressional scrutiny of the Federal Reserve, and the measure could be included in a broader banking overhaul this fall.


It faces a rockier road in the Senate, where a companion bill offered by his ideological opposite, self-described socialist Bernie Sanders, has drawn 23 co-sponsors.

From Reuters, via Canadian Silver Bug.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The endorsements accumulate...

Just a brief update here as it's a busy week for me. Ovide Mercredi, the chief of Misipawistik Cree Nation (and former AFN national chief) has thrown his lot in with Selinger, while Family Services and Housing minister Gord Mackintosh has endorsed Swan (source for both facts). Interestingly, Never Eat Yellow Snow was right in predicting Mackintosh's choice, the second correct choice in as many days (source). Good prognostication!

Meanwhile, Steve Ashton says he'll bring back the tuition freeze if he wins.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A bold pronouncement from the Ashton team

They say they have the numbers to win on the first ballot:

Meanwhile, Steve Ashton's campaign officials announced today that they have signed up or renewed 1,100 party memberships over the past several days and suggested the Thompson MLA is in the lead in attracting delegate support.

Further, they said Ashton could narrowly win the leadership on the first ballot.

Before the leadership race began, the provincial NDP had about 5,500 members, according to party officials. As of Sunday, the party had about 7,500 members.

Ashton campaign chairman Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, who turned over 250 new memberships at NDP headquarters on Portage Avenue this afternoon, said Ashton is selling memberships across the province, with most in the city of Winnipeg.

From the Winnipeg Free Press. Recruiting those new members is no small achievement; those 1100 memberships are worth 110 delegates at the convention under the formula used by the party. Of course, that's 110 out of 750, so it's far from a foregone conclusion. Actually it's more than 750, due to the fact that riding associations and labour are granted a certain number of automatic delegates (who some are calling "superdelegates", following the American example). And in any case, the other candidates have until Thursday to catch up, after which new members are not eligible to be delegates (or to elect them).

I have no idea if Ashton can win on the first ballot. I do suspect that if he can't do it on the first ballot, he won't do it at all; supporters of Selinger and Swan probably have more in common with each other than with supporters of Ashton, and will vote accordingly if their chosen candidate is dropped. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think so.

Meanwhile, from the same article, Swan has taken a clear stance against the HST for the balance of this government's term, though he doesn't explicitly reject the idea of bringing it in afterwards if reelected. Not really that different, in that Selinger, as we've seen, has said that it doesn't seem like a good idea at this time, but isn't prepared to say never either.

And last, but not least, Selinger has picked up another endorsement, this one from Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick (same article yet again). Credit is due to Never Eat Yellow Snow for predicting this last week. I notice as well that while his domain name still directs to the caucus bio, Selinger now has a YouTube channel.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Conservation group accused of failing to see the forest for the trees

A British conservation organization, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, wants to clearcut woodlands composed of non-native tree species, in order to create the open heaths favoured by many declining species. The problem is, this may not be good for the country's carbon balance:

It is an all-too familiar scene of environmental destruction. Deep in a forest, heavy machinery has felled a giant swath of trees to leave bare scrubland and a handful of stumps as forlorn memorials. The timber has long gone and cattle now pick their way across the clearing.

But the scene of this environmental vandalism is not Indonesia or the Amazon; it is affluent Surrey. And those responsible are not illegal loggers, but one of Britain's largest and most influential conservation groups. If it has its way, a forest near you could be next for the chop.

"Scots pine, Corsican pine, Japanese larch. There are clues in the names. These trees are not native to southern England," says Mike Coates, a project manager with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

In a controversial move, the RSPB has set its sights on England's non-native woodlands, which it wants to demolish to find space to restore a different type of English habitat, the open and rugged heathland immortalised in the novels of Thomas Hardy. Dominated by heather and scrubby plants, such heathland is an increasingly rare sight in England, and so is the wildlife that relies upon it.

Coates says: "Woodland is very common compared with heathland. But re-creating heathland is so much better for wildlife than a conifer plantation. Lots of the birds that live in the conifer forests are common and can survive elsewhere. Heathland stuff needs heathland, and much of it is very rare."

From the Guardian. So who's right? I lean towards the critics; the fight against climate change is a matter of damage control at this point. Biodiversity isn't going to fare well if global temperatures increase too much, and the RSPB's efforts will be insignificant compared to the damage that could result. Certainly, efforts should be made to preserve existing heathland, though.

Do corporate insiders know something we don't?

It stands to reason, doesn't it? Well then maybe we should be taking notice of this:
Can hundreds of stock-selling insiders be wrong?

The stock market has mounted an historic rally since it hit a low in March. The S&P 500 is up 55%, as U.S. job losses have slowed and credit markets have stabilized.

But against that improving backdrop, one indicator has turned distinctly bearish: Corporate officers and directors have been selling shares at a pace last seen just before the onset of the subprime malaise two years ago.

While a wave of insider selling doesn't necessarily foretell a stock market downturn, it suggests that those with the first read on business trends don't believe current stock prices are justified by economic fundamentals.

"It's not a very complicated story," said Charles Biderman, who runs market research firm Trim Tabs. "Insiders know better than you and me. If prices are too high, they sell."

Biderman, who says there were $31 worth of insider stock sales in August for every $1 of insider buys, isn't the only one who has taken note. Ben Silverman, director of research at the web site that tracks trading action, said insiders are selling at their most aggressive clip since the summer of 2007.

Hat tip to LargoWinch in this iTulip thread. Makes you wonder if all these claims that the recession is coming to an end aren't a bit premature...

More leadership coverage

The Winnipeg Free Press has published a fairly detailed summary of the candidates (except for the hapless John Boehm). Each of them is asked for a "Twitter-length bio", what they bring to the race, their positions on some key issues (building the economy, health care, and social and economic justice), and their ability to win the next election. Looking at the discussion of the issues, we find the following:

Building the economy: Swan and Selinger both emphasize green technology as a way of creating jobs. In particular, Selinger mentions investment in wind power, hydro, and geothermal energy, while Swan speculates that Manitoba, being blessed with large amounts of water as well as electricity, could be well placed to become a major player in hydrogen production. Selinger also emphasizes investment in research and development, while Swan advocates using the recommendations of Manitoba's Innovation Council (which he was involved in creating). Ashton's approach to these matters is focused on infrastructure investments (he cites building roads to remote communities as an example) and that he would "use the province's tremendous ethnic diversity to leverage foreign investment in Manitoba and increase the number of trade missions abroad". Both he and Selinger discuss education in this context as well; Ashton simply states the need for more emphasis on post-secondary education, while Selinger is a bit more specific, citing the need to improve high school graduation rates and increase co-op programs in the post-secondary system.

Health care: All three emphasize the importance of prevention, notably by promotion of better lifestyles through Manitoba's unique Department of Healthy Living. Ashton states that he would increase that department's budget and profile. Selinger also advocates strengthening that department; he also wishes to increase volunteerism on the grounds that people who volunteer tend to have better lifestyles. He suggests that a tax credit for volunteerism might be helpful in this regard. Swan mentions chronic disease as "the biggest enemy we have".

Social and economic justice: All three place considerable emphasis on housing. Swan says that he would create a stand-alone Department of Housing, with responsibility for co-operative housing (which currently is handled with other co-ops under MAFRI). Selinger wants to continue existing investments in affordable housing, while Ashton also wishes to "work with the private sector to increase the number of rental units", perhaps through tax incentives. Selinger also cites his record as co-chair of the All Aboard poverty reduction strategy which was launched earlier this year, which invests in housing as well as employment, mental health services, and other poverty reduction initiatives.

Of the candidates, all three high profile guys have domain names registered, but currently redirects to Selinger's caucus bio. Presumably that will change in the next few days. Swan and Ashton both have working sites up (Swan's appears to have been completely redesigned, while Ashton's has plenty of content from before the leadership race began). John Boehm appears not to have a domain registered yet.

Dan Lett seems to think Swan is ahead at this stage due to the support of some labour leaders. Whether this is the case is a bit less clear to me, but the article is worth a read regardless.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hedy Fry is really annoying, but...

... I can't fault her for this:

A postcard campaign by a Liberal MP has upset residents in the military community of Oromocto, N.B.

The postcards from Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry carry the image of a weathered Canadian flag on a book bag and the words, "We used to wear it with pride."

Seem harsh? Well consider. We're involved in a dubious war, while cutting back on peacekeeping elsewhere. We've let the Chalk River reactor, which supplied the majority of medical radioisotopes for the whole fricking planet, fall into rack and ruin (though the previous Liberal government probably deserves some of the blame for that). We've slashed funding to the Canadian International Development Agency and the foreign aid that helped build our international reputation. Our prime minister shows up late for G8 meetings. We fail to defend our own citizens when they get in trouble abroad (except when they're white, of course). We help to undermine climate change agreements. We're going gung-ho on the tar sands to fatten the wallets of Harper's buddies in the oil industry, heedless of the environmental consequences. And I could go on.

No, the Harper government is indeed a national disgrace. The sooner they're gone, the better.

Selinger suspicious of HST

A month ago, Dan Lett was speculating that Manitoba would eventually acquiesce to the harmonized sales tax. At the time, finance minister Selinger was "taking a good, long look at the proposal". Well, it seems he remains unconvinced:
Harmonizing Manitoba's provincial sales tax with the federal GST could end up costing the government over $400-million a year, provincial Finance Minister Greg Selinger said Monday.

Mr. Selinger is still considering federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's ongoing request to meld the two sales taxes - but suggested Mr. Flaherty is going to have to put more on the table than he has because the impact in Manitoba could be very costly.

"It's a different situation in every province," said Mr. Selinger.

Mr. Selinger pointed to a 2008 C.D. Howe Institute analysis which suggests Manitoba revenues would plunge over $200-million a year under an HST.

But that figure, he noted, doesn't account for offsets offered to consumers to help reduce the extra tax they'd pay under an HST.

More recently, according to Endless Spin Cycle, the Brandon Sun (which is behind a subscription wall, so no direct link) reports that Selinger is still not keen on the idea, saying "At this stage I don’t think it would be wise to implement it right now ... I keep an open mind on it, but the business case for it today was not good."

For what it's worth, I'm not keen on the HST either; the feds may be trying to bribe us with a large amount of money (an estimated $500 million according to the National Post article quoted above), but consider this: the current PST is on goods (most of which, like it or not, are imported and thus don't create jobs here), while the HST would result in adding more tax to services (which do create jobs here). So kudos to Greg for refusing to cave in to the pressure. Nor can he be accused of knee-jerk rejection of the idea; all he's saying is that after careful consideration, it doesn't seem that we should be doing it now. To my mind that's a good approach to an issue like this.

Another possible barrier to health care reform in the US

The New York Times reports that there are plans afoot to buy people's life insurance policies off them, and securitize them in the same way they've done with mortgages:
After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.
Fair enough, right? Well, besides the fact that it could be seen as kind of predatory, those planning to do this could stand to lose if, say, people start living longer:

To test how different mixes of policies would perform, Mr. Buckler has run computer simulations to show what would happen to returns if people lived significantly longer than expected.

But even with a math whiz calculating every possibility, some risks may not be apparent until after the fact. How can a computer accurately predict what would happen if health reform passed, for example, and better care for a large number of Americans meant that people generally started living longer? Or if a magic-bullet cure for all types of cancer was developed?

If the computer models were wrong, investors could lose a lot of money.
My emphasis. Think the investment banks are going to take health care reform lying down?

Hat tip to c1ue in this iTulip thread for the link.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another country questioning its close ties to the US...

... and it's a biggie:
A split is emerging between the United States and Japan over the new Tokyo government's anti-globalisation rhetoric and its threats to end a refueling agreement for US ships in support of the war in Afghanistan.

Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, has caused alarm in Washington after publishing an article blaming the US for the ills of capitalism, the global economy and "the destruction of human dignity".

He also intends to examine an agreement that permits US warships to dock at Japanese ports, in violation of the nation's non-nuclear principles. Mr Hatoyama says he will also look again at the $6 billion cost faced by Japan to transfer thousands of US troops from their base in Okinawa to the Pacific island of Guam amid a wide-ranging review of the American military presence on Japanese soil.

His election campaign promised a more "independent" foreign policy from Washington and closer relations with Asian neighbours, including China. On Thursday, he repeated his intention to defy the US and end the Maritime Self-Defence Force's resupply mission in the Indian Ocean.

From here, via Mega in this iTulip thread. It'll be interesting to see how this goes; the Yanks probably won't let go of those docking privileges easily. Gwynne Dyer discusses the victory of Mr. Hatoyama and the DPJ in this article, and thinks they'll face an uphill battle bringing about permanent changes in the country. Time will tell.

Leadership update

Some new endorsements:

According to the CBC, Bill Blaikie has joined the Selinger camp while Swan has picked up Peter Bjornson, Dave Chomiak, and Ron Lemieux. Never Eat Yellow Snow claims that the elusive Bonnie Korzeniowski has joined the Selinger camp as well, though I await confirmation. Meanwhile Steve Ashton has won the support of Transcona councillor (and ex-EPC member) Russ Wyatt (source). Particularly interesting, though, will be who Frank Whitehead decides to support; since the nomination for the byelection in The Pas was fiercely contested, there are a lot of members in that riding, meaning they qualify for a lot of delegates. So Frank could be one of the most influential MLAs in the house right now.

Iggy adopts Steve's attitude to cooperation

So now Ignatieff has ruled out a coalition as well:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff vowed Friday that his party would never enter into a governing coalition and said he could make Parliament work without such a deal.

"In January, we did not support a coalition, and we do not support a coalition today or tomorrow," Ignatieff told reporters in Ottawa.

Ignatieff said he wouldn't need to form a parliamentary pact because, unlike Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he doesn't treat political adversaries as enemies.

Source. I don't know, saying you'll never form a coalition, no matter what, sounds a lot like treating your adversaries as enemies to me. Fair enough to say, "we have no plans to form a coalition at this stage", but to categorically reject the idea seems a bit extreme.

To be fair, the idea of a coalition has been badly smeared over the last year, so it's understandable that Iggy might see it as something best avoided, but I think it would be a lot more constructive to try to sell the public on the idea. Most of Europe is governed by coalition governments most of the time, for instance. Of course, most of Europe has proportional representation, so the parties know from the start that they're unlikely to ever get a majority government. The prospect of that tends to focus the mind wonderfully. But as long as the Bloc is a major player, majority governments are pretty unlikely here, too, so it's high time the Liberals and Conservatives acknowledged that fact. Maybe then we could make Parliament work.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rumours of another candidate?

So it seems the Wheat City Journal is throwing Drew Caldwell's name out there:

A career politician who served on Brandon city council from 1992 to 1999 and then MLA for Brandon East from 1999 to present day, Caldwell told The Journal shortly after Doer’s resignation that he hadn’t ruled out a bid for the leadership. He said a number of people — “mostly from outside Brandon” — had called to urge him to run.

Caldwell could not be reached for comment Tuesday to get an update on his potential leadership status.

All very well, but Curtis from Endless Spin Cycle was able to reach Caldwell for comment before that story ran, and he seemed to throw cold water on the idea:
"I'm not neutral at all- I am a commited and active NDP supporter! ... I am also generally of the view that one should actually listen to what the candidates have to say, assess their platforms, and then reflect thoughtfully on the quality of their positions before making a decision."

Now, after this "story" broke, he says that his "role in this campaign is exactly as we have discussed." In other words, bringing the leadership campaign to the Brandon area as much as possible, but not engaged in it as a contestant.
Curtis interprets this as a definitive no; I don't know if I'd go that far, but it doesn't seem likely that he will run at this stage.

What Steve says in private

As we know, Canadians -- even those who are willing to support the Conservatives out of hatred of the Liberals -- are leery of giving them a majority. You've doubtless noticed the fact that they never seem to say the M-word in public. In front of the party faithful, though, it's a different story:

Of course, all the leaders (except Gilles) want a majority, but Harper's unwillingness to talk about it in public is telling. And when he talks about how a coalition will surely arise if the Cons don't get what they want (far from clear, but never mind), his followers take it for granted that this would be an utterly evil thing. Never mind that Harper's European counterparts like Angela Merkel would never think of trying to run a minority government on their own... his message seems to be "Vote for me, and I promise I will not cooperate with anyone". Nice.

ETA: the whole speech can be found here; hat tip to A BCer in Toronto.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does the idea of a public bus company have legs (er... wheels)?

In a recent post I suggested that the province should let Greyhound go and provide the service itself. Is this crazy? Don't know, but someone has written a letter to the editor advocating the idea. And it's not unheard of, even in Western Canada; STC was created by order-in-council in 1946 and has rendered yeoman service for Saskatchewan's rural residents ever since. This in a province that has far more roads, per capita, than Manitoba. Here, you'd just need a few main lines (the Trans-Canada, Yellowhead, one through the Interlake to Thompson, one from Brandon to Flin Flon, and one up to Pine Falls or Bissett might do the trick), with branch lines to other centres as needed. Of course, the initial outlay would be more than the $15 million Greyhound is demanding so that they'll continue taking people from isolated communities to their medical appointments, but I think it might be worth it, at least until we can start building up the province's railways again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Oops, missed one...

In this story it's mentioned that John Boehm is running as well:
Meanwhile, Portage la Prairie resident and NDP party member John Boehm told the Sun he also intends to take a stab at the leadership. Boehm, a former physical education teacher who runs his own gym, has never held political office, but did make an unsuccessful run to be named the federal NDP's candidate for Portage la Prairie during last fall's election.
Given that he failed to become the guy who failed to defeat David Faurschou, I think I can be forgiven for overlooking him...

Who backs whom...

So with three candidates now officially declared, we have a good idea who each candidate can count on for support based on who showed up at their campaign launches (with one exception, see below).

Greg Selinger seems to have the support of Ministers Kerri Irvin-Ross (Healthy Living), Diane McGifford (Advanced Education and Training), Eric Robinson (Culture, Heritage, and Tourism), and Roseanne Wowchuk (Agriculture, Food, and Rural Initiatives) as well as backbenchers Rob Altemeyer, Marilyn Brick, Greg Dewar, Jennifer Howard, Flor Marcelino, Doug Martindale, and Mohinder Saran (source).

Andrew Swan got the support of Ministers Nancy Allan (Labour), Theresa Oswald (Health), and Stan Struthers (Conservation), as well as backbenchers Sharon Blady and Erin Selby (source). MP Pat Martin is also apparently endorsing Swan.

Steve Ashton got the nod from Bidhu Jha, Tom Nevakshonoff, and Daryl Reid (source). He also seems to have received support from Chief Glen Hudson of Peguis and Chief George Kemp of Berens River. I have a funny feeling that MP Niki Ashton is going to be backing him as well...

Several other MLAs, including a couple of cabinet ministers, have yet to declare their allegiances. A special note must be made of St. James MLA Bonnie Korzeniowski, who reportedly showed up at all three campaign launches. According to this story she said that she "wished to show support for all her colleagues who are running for the leadership" and hasn't decided who to support. To be fair, as deputy speaker she may wish to remain neutral, at least publicly.

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's a three way race now

As expected, Greg Selinger is going to announce his candidacy tomorrow:

Manitoba Finance Minister Greg Selinger is expected to announce Tuesday he's joining the NDP leadership race, CBC News has learned.

A spokesman for Selinger said Monday that the finance minister will make the announcement at 12:30 p.m. CT at the Norwood Community Centre in Winnipeg.

It's expected several provincial NDP cabinet ministers will be at the announcement, the spokesman said.

Source. Anybody's guess who will win, though I think Ashton will have a harder time appealing to urban voters than the others. Swan and Selinger are both likeable and competent, and I think Ashton is too (at least, his handling of this spring's flooding impressed everyone). I'm inclined to think that Swan will be the centrist choice, while Selinger and Ashton will appeal slightly more to the left. Ashton seems to be popular with a lot of the old line labour movement (the Fire Fighters' Association, for instance, is backing him) while Selinger's involvement in inner city issues (he was one of the founders of C.E.D.A., for instance) will earn him support from a lot of urban activists. No question, it will be an interesting race.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Liberals going to bring down the government... again

Again, you say? Well, it's worth remembering that this isn't the first time:

“Our party is united in its determination to face Mr. Harper down.” – Michael Ignatieff to meeting of New Brunswick Liberals, Telegraph-Journal December 6, 2008

“We've put down a very clear marker. This government has to get the money out the door … If this government fails to meet these targets, it will not survive for long." – Michael Ignatieff,, January 28, 2009

“Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is looking to June as his first chance to defeat the Harper government over its handling of the economic crisis, according to his finance critic.” – Globe and Mail, February 27, 2009

"I want to make Parliament work but I don't write blank cheques. That's not what my voters sent me to Parliament to do," he said less than three hours before Liberals approved the fund. "If the government wants to make Parliament work, we can find a way to make it work. If they don't want to make it work, look out." – Michael Ignatieff, Hamilton Spectator, March 25, 2009

“Michael Ignatieff declared Thursday that federal Liberals are united, out of debt and "basically ready to fight an election" if an impasse is reached in Parliament.” – Canwest News, April 30, 2009

“The leader of the federal Liberal party has threatened to push for an election if the minority Conservative government doesn't support proposals to reform the employment insurance system.” –, May 3, 2009

“Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says the party will decide next week whether to try to bring down the Harper government and plunge the country into a mid-summer election.” – Canadian Press, June 3, 2009

From here (hat tip to Devin Johnston). Think it'll be any different this time?

Greyhound demands $15M to avoid route cuts

Can you say "extortion"?

Greyhound Canada said Thursday that unless it gets $15 million in government aid, it will cease bus operations in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario because it is being forced to operate unprofitable rural routes with a lack of government help.

The company, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Greyhound Lines Inc., also said it is reviewing its operations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Despite Greyhound's insistence that it is in "dire" financial straits, federal and provincial politicians called the announcement a ploy.

Service in Manitoba will end Oct. 2 and routes in northwestern Ontario will stop operating Dec. 2, Greyhound said in a statement.

Stuart Kendrick, senior vice-president of Greyhound Canada, said government is to blame for the company's financial situation.

Kendrick said current rules force Greyhound to run trips to unprofitable sites in small-town Canada, which can no longer be supported through money-making routes and bus parcel operations, or through other revenue sources.

Source. Maybe we should spend some money, but use it to set up our own publicly owned bus line...

Edited to add: is Jim Maloway reading this blog?

And a second...

Looks like Steve Ashton is in:

The race for the leadership of the Manitoba NDP is heating up with a second candidate set to step up.

Steve Ashton, minister of intergovernmental affairs, told CBC News he intends to announce his candidacy officially on Friday.

Source. I suppose when he makes his official announcement we'll find out who's endorsing him...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The first official candidate...

... is Andrew Swan. As well, at the press conference where he announced his candidacy, he was endorsed by Oswald and Struthers, so we know they're not running either. Also endorsing him was Nancy Allan, and according to Endless Spin Cycle backbenchers Erin Selby, Sharon Blady, and Bonnie Korzeniowski were also there.

As of writing, nobody else has declared yet.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The field narrows

Well, nobody's officially entered the race for Premier yet, though now that a convention date has been set that's about to change. Theresa Oswald, in a radio interview a few minutes ago, said that she'd be announcing her decision tomorrow, and others are likely to make their decision then as well (assuming they haven't already decided). Several have announced that they're not running, though. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Nancy Allan, and Christine Melnick are all out, and today Bill Blaikie also announced that he won't be running. So who's left? Well, besides Oswald, Ashton, and Selinger, some have mentioned Family Services and Housing minister Gord Mackintosh, Conservation minister Stan Struthers, and Justice minister Dave Chomiak. Less likely, but mentioned in some articles, are Healthy Living minister Kerri Irvin-Ross and Rossmere MLA Bidhu Jha. And apparently Pat Martin hasn't ruled out a run either, though I personally wouldn't bet on it.

So who will win? Beats me. There are a lot of good candidates in that list; hopefully the best person will win. Maybe after tomorrow we'll have a better idea.

PS: Devin Johnston is keeping score here.