Tag Archives: leadership

Qualities of the Next NDP Leader

Here is the benchmark I’ll be using to evaluate who ought to be the next leader of the federal NDP:


Wanted, #NDP leader: integrity, inspiring, engaging personality, intelligent, ability to include French & First Nations, bilingual. #cdnpoli

via Twitter / @PoliticsReSpun: Wanted, #NDP leader

And let’s add environment and climate change leader, optimistic, and including new Canadians to that list, at the risk of making it close to too long.

So we have Topp, Saganash, Cullen. Dewar probably tomorrow. Mulcair is waiting for…not sure. Libby Davies and Megan Leslie are not in. Waiting on Robert Chisholm and Peggy Nash.

What do you think?

Am I missing some qualitites?

What do you think of the current and likely candidates?

17 Federal NDP Leadership Possibilities

Jack Layton spent much time in his last days crafting his messages of hope, justice, optimism, equality and integrity: encouraging us to move on and build on the Orange Crush that he was such a key part of.

So far I’ve heard of 17 who people are talking about considering as leadership contenders; few are clear with confirmations so far until the leadership rules come out next week.

Here are the names I’ve heard, alphabetically. If I’ve missed some, toss them into the comments below, please.

  • Angus
  • Belanger
  • Boivin
  • Chisholm
  • Chow
  • Cullen
  • Davies
  • Davies
  • Dewar
  • Julian
  • Leslie
  • Martin
  • Mulcair
  • Nash
  • Saganash
  • Savoie
  • Topp

Doer sounds like a solid no.

The first litmus test is bilingualism.

Another is someone who can define their own style of leadership that is as engaging as Jack Layton’s was, particularly in the last 6 months, but that is also a natural fit as their own.

Another will be their vision of involving the Quebec caucus in a meaningful way, respecting their majority of numbers, combined with their inexperience as MPs [as opposed to other significant areas of life].

Another will be in working the membership demographics. The west has a majority of members. BC has the most of all provinces. There will be huge membership sign-ups, particularly in Ontario and Quebec.

Another will be in ensuring an open, constructive relationship with organized labour.

Liveblog of Jack Layton’s Funeral

It’s been an astonishing week since Jack Layton’s death and not-so-surprising outpouring of public grief and recognition of what he brought to Canadian politics and public service: optimism and integrity, as I see it.

What about you?

His funeral is set for today at 2pm, Toronto time. Please feel free to participate in our liveblog conversation about the funeral, the NDP, the progressive movement in Canada, and of course, optimism and integrity in politics and public service.

The Democratic Rebirth of Canada

With less than a dozen days left in the federal election, I am prepared to call it…there is a democratic rebirth in this country. But I have one warning about reading too much into high turnouts in advance polls this weekend.

With Egypt capturing our hearts, and Tunisia, and Libya and a dozen other places in Africa and the Middle East seeking democracy, and the anti-neoliberal people’s movements against worker bashing by the hyper-rich in Wisconsin and Ohio and dozens of other places in the world, I feared Canada would be passed over.

Not so.

We had a contempt of parliament vote in the House effectively firing the contemptuous Stephen Harper.

We have seen an election campaign with a consistently contemptuous ex-prime minister not even remotely trying to hide his disdain for democracy or applying for his old job again.

We have seen vote mobs, a stunning embrace of the NDP not as a radical new party, but a party whose policies have always resonated with millions of working Canadians, but now we see that after seven years of minority government that has enhanced democratic potential in Canada, the old tired binary choice of Liberal or Conservative is appearing increasingly obsolete.

That perception of obsolescence got a boost with the Conservative-Liberal passive coalition created when the Liberals decided to only sort of vote against Conservative policies. The Liberals ensured they passed by not allowing enough of Liberals MPs to attend the vote to stop bad policies.

Another boost came from Michael Ignatieff living down to expectations of his utter lack of charisma as a compelling leader with a vision. He kept up Liberal traditions of stealing progressive NDP policies, but we have seen him support Harper so much that he has already proven he’ll campaign from the left but govern from the right. In this case he helped Harper govern from the radical right and now he campaigns from the left. Because this all happened backwards from normal, we are all seeing through it.

That is why the NDP is polling ahead of the Liberals. That is also why Jack Layton is considered by far the most desirable prime minister. And it may come from his successful presentation in the debates. And this is why analysis of one recent poll inside the NDP surge this week shows the NDP poised to win 60 seats.

That is also why in exploring the credibility of Jack Layton as prime minister, after a few more days of the NDP surge past the Liberals, another scenario for Layton to become prime minister is for the NDP to simply win more seats than the Liberals: reflecting a significant party implosion of credibility. This would allow the NDP to explore a coalition or voting arrangement and further erode Ignatieff’s chances of remaining Liberal leader, making Layton the only viable prime minister.

Since the Liberals lost their majority 7 years ago, they have hung on as official opposition. But the electorate has grown weary of their inability to provide a compelling message to resonate enough with voters to supplant the increasingly contemptuous Conservative party. The NDP has been the de facto opposition to this horrible government and the Liberals show no sign of caring to diverge from their passive support of the government. The public appears to be rewarding the NDP.

But the NDP support is soft, with a significant percentage of supporting voters not firmly committed to voting NDP. This may mean they may shift back to the Liberals at the last minute. That has happened in the past. The vote parking with the NDP may also result in strategic voting against Harper. Regardless, the surge we are seeing now has helped the Liberal party realize they lack the progressive credibility they have been promoting about themselves. That belongs to Jack Layton and the NDP team and the impressive BC caucus of the party.

We have seen the Canadian electorate brutally punish a political party once before in recent memory. During the era of majority governments in Canada, the voters revoked 167/169 seats from the Progressive Conservative party in 1993. In our post-majority era now, Ignatieff’s weak campaign leads to a credible possibility that when they finish counting the votes in BC, where we will determine the result of the election, we could have another Conservative minority with fewer seats than in the last parliament, and an NDP opposition with more seats than the Liberals.

And since parliament just recently fired Harper, I see only one way for an opposition party to give Harper a chance to form a government before Layton does: if the Liberal party formalizes is previously passive coalition with Harper. Or Harper’s successor, and Ignatieff’s successor since Harper’s third failure to get a majority and Ignatieff’s loss of official opposition would end their era as party leaders.

But a warning:

Yesterday we saw spectacular turnouts and long lines at many advance polls across the country. We also saw some low turnout at some polls. I am eager to interpret that as another signal of this democratic rebirth in the nation that I so desire, but I’ve been burned by this once already.

Before the 2009 election in BC I optimistically but incorrectly interpreted seriously high turnout in advanced polls as both a resurgence in democratic participation because of almost a decade of anti-social abuse by the BC Liberal government and a connected rejection of that abuse setting up an NDP win. That didn’t happen. In fact, voter turnout hit a record low in 2009 for a BC election.

And while Werner Heisenberg may have noted that the high turnout may have led to some complacency among progressive voters leading to them not showing up to vote on election day, that is not much to embrace for much credibility.

So my warning is that regardless of how advanced polls have high turnouts or not, we cannot allow ourselves to read anything into it as a predictor of May 2’s results. We still need to get out the vote. All we may be able to conclude from any high turnouts in advanced polls is that lots of people want to vote early.

So advanced polls opened yesterday, they open again today and Monday. We can vote on election day on May 2, but we can also vote any day at our riding’s returning office until Tuesday. Check Elections Canada for locations.

And regardless of how the polling goes for the next several days, do your job of looking for more evidence of a rebirth of democratic participation in Canada, and if you live in a riding where a candidate refuses to show up to an all-candidates meeting, punish their contempt for democracy by voting against them.

Political Leaders Must Be Activists

I’ve been quite disappointed in how President Obama’s relationship with the populace has shifted from being a facilitator of socio-political change with a high social media profile to a typical president who neglects opportunities to fully engage citizen activists with a progressive agenda. His failure to motivate the millions of people whose email addresses he collected, to in turn motivate Congress to let the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire is a classic example.

A few weeks ago in an interview in the Hindustan Times, Al Gore had a few words about leadership [italics is mine]:

How can individuals contribute to fight the climate change?

Some sensible choices like using more energy efficient light bulbs, more insulation and adopting less carbon consuming technologies can help. But, the bigger change will come at the policy level by the politicians. Leaders will have to become political activists and go at the grass root levels to speed up the process of fighting global warming.

via Need to speed up process of fighting global warming: Al Gore – Hindustan Times.

It’s the part of about leaders being activists that appears ground-breaking, but it’s really not. Movements start by people stepping up to lead, but too often politicians don’t see their role as being movement leaders. Voter turnout dropping below 50% in BC in 2009 demonstrates that people’s expectations of political leaders has evolved.

But will the next generation of political leaders in BC learn truly embrace this new climate?

Gillian Shaw reviewed some core rules for how leadership contenders [but really, any prospective political leader/activist] ought to use social media in motivating their constituency:

  1. Be honest
  2. Social networking is about dialogue
  3. “Not listening to people on Twitter would be like not answering our phone”
  4. Lose the generic website, Facebook and YouTube sites
  5. Go mobile or go home

People seeking leadership or even just policy influence need to understand that social media is not merely another one-way, broadcast advertising platform but a place particularly designed around human engagement. It’s either do social media correctly or skip it entirely, which has its own attached peril because people using social media will correctly conclude that a leader’s absence signals their neglect of that human platform.

So now that the BC NDP and BC Liberal leadership races are on, prospective leaders have the opportunity to put member engagement on the table as something needing a new paradigm compared to old 20th century ways of acknowledging members as people who simply join a political movement only to sub-contract their political activity to the “professionals.” More and more people today are not abrogating that responsibility.

Particularly if the BC NDP, for instance, is to become the electoral wing of a progressive social movement in BC, the party and caucus need to embrace the myriad of ways of facilitating that kind of engagement and inclusion, particularly by focusing on points 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 from my benchmark for evaluating political evolution:

1. We must build a social movement within the party

4. We must empower members and non-members

5. We must improve our relationship with the environment

6. We must improve our relationship with labour and other progressive groups

7. We must build a constructive relationship with progressive businesses

In February and April of next year we’ll see how 21st century BC politics can become.

BC Liberal Party Leadership Race Design: A Potential for Chaos

Watching the BC Liberal Party make up new rules for replacing their hated leader is an exercise in spin. Now that they’ve decided to try to move from a one-member-one-vote system to a representative system, they’ll have a leadership race that requires the leader to have more province-wide support than if they kept their old system that favoured candidates who could appeal to the bulk of the membership in urban areas.

But the party has created chaos in their timing. They decided a few days ago to schedule a general meeting to ratify their new leadership voting system for February 12, 2011. Then yesterday they decided to have their leadership vote just 14 days later:

“We felt it was important give our members an opportunity to adopt a more representative voting process prior to the Leadership Vote,” said Patryluk. “The setting of these dates provides for a thoughtful, organized, and reasonable process allowing our party to move forward.”

via Party Sets Leadership Vote for February 26, 2011.

The general meeting needs to approve the new voting system with a 2/3 majority. If that passes, then leadership contenders who will have been campaigning since well before February 12 will be able to continue in their strategy based on needing broad provincial appeal.

But what if that voting system doesn’t get the 2/3 majority? What if candidates with urban appeal decide to quietly undermine that vote to ensure they have an advantage? What if the expected change in the leadership vote system ends up not happening, then any contender who is working the whole province for support will suddenly be irrelevant if that 2/3 vote fails. Then they will have only two weeks to reconfigure their campaign to pander to urban voters, a distinct disadvantage.

The 14 day gap between key dates could easily be up to 6 months to allow contenders to know for sure which voting system they will be working in. Instead the party choose a two week gap likely in an effort to actually get rid of Gordon Campbell sooner rather than later.

A much smarter, though practically impossible, process would be to insist [somehow] that Campbell leave now, install a caretaker premier who pledges not to run for party leadership, then have their constitutional meeting on February 12 and a less rushed leadership campaign without the overarching need of getting Campbell out of the picture.

Instead we have the potential for significant manipulation in the leadership race and a missed opportunity to avoid threats to transparency.

But then when we think about a decade of the lies and broken promises and anti-social neoliberal policy choices and the BC Rail scandal and such, it is no surprise that the party has created a process that is vulnerable to dirty tricks.

And if it weren’t for the needless turmoil that the province will suffer under waiting for the next premier and that person’s management and policy preferences, reading the party’s press release above would be just funny. Claiming that the 14 day gap will lead to anything thoughtful, organized or reasonable is just potential insanity.

Arrogant, out of touch and deluded are common descriptions of this party’s rule this decade. They seem to be maintaining that tradition with what appears to be a presumption that the February 12 vote will pass as hoped. Maybe it will, but it is an enormous risk to assume there won’t be a movement to scuttle that change.

Meanwhile, we all wait to see through all this potential chaos which person will become an unelected leader of the party and the province for up to 27 months.

The BC NDP Channels Brian Mulroney

I want a BC NDP that is a beacon of hope, clarity, vision and inspiration to address the dire economic, energy and environmental challenges we have created for ourselves by the start of the 21st century. But now the party is merely channeling Brian Mulroney’s “open for business” approach to becoming dependent on odious foreign tourism money.

While I was watching the Twitter feed of #g20 marches in Toronto and the draconian police response yesterday afternoon, the BC NDP’s leader released two statements on leadership and tourism. They demonstrated why the party is losing credibility among those desperate for a constructive vision for a better future, and those who care about economic reform, the environment and meaningful political participation in the 21st century.

  1. Vision: “I believe that leadership is about listening carefully to British Columbians and then making decisions that are in the broad public interest. … That’s the way best decisions are made.”
    1. We actually need leaders who can inspire us with ideas that will truly make a difference with our current ecological, energy and economic challenges like the world has never before seen. In the absence of new ideas we slide towards the opposite: seeing our leaders as cynical or vision-free politicians who can listen to people, then merely make shrewd policy based on what they hear, regardless of principles.
    2. The BC NDP has unanimously endorsed its Sustainable BC plan twice at conventions in 2007 and 2009. Only now, a year after a third electoral loss, is the party starting to implement the vision. It should not be this complicated!
  2. Priorities: “I believe that it’s time for a new positive agenda for our province, an agenda that grows our economy, enhances our public services and looks out for our environment.”
    1. Public services are critical to ensure the rapacious profit motive does not suck life out of necessities like healthcare, education and other public goods. That’s good.
    2. But to merely “look out for the environment” is just not good enough considering the scope of how we have threatened our ecological existence for the last 1.5 centuries. The BC NDP’s Sustainable BC plan, in fact, even calls for “a diversified economy that operates within the environmental carrying capacity.” The environment cannot be a subset of the economy, which is how the BC NDP is operating now.
    3. Finally, “economic growth” is simply the wrong paradigm. It still sounds fine for people who haven’t heard of or fully understood the violence to our society from global capitalism and the worship of GDP growth, even with the most recent global economic meltdown. It has cost us trillions to just fix this most recent mess. Anyone who thinks there won’t be a dark, deregulated capitalism sequel cannot read history.
    4. A sad irony is the fact that at the 2009 BC NDP convention there was a workshop on Steady-State Economics put on by the party’s environment committee, the same group that actually came up with Sustainable BC. If you are interested in an economy that can exist within the planet’s environmental carrying capacity, you need to look at Steady-State Economics. Deaf ears, however, exist in the party when we continue to hear about the need for economic growth.
  3. Unsustainable Tourism: “Tourism is an essential part of a sustainable B.C. economy. The Approved Destination Status agreement [with China] is an amazing opportunity to grow this critical sector of our economy and build relationships with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.”
    1. Global tourism is not sustainable. What is the ecological footprint of travelling around the world? It’s too high. Our tourism sector should be focusing on sustainable travel with low footprints, not from tourists from around the planet.
    2. Why is the BC NDP excited about Chinese tourism income? Because they have money and we can “grow this critical sector of our economy.” The Chinese wealth is based on global corporate trade in goods and services combined with massive human rights abuses and environmental devastation, working with horrible retail partners like Walmart, all resulting in China’s growing wealth. There is nothing sustainable about endorsing this economic model or trying to glean some of its wealth. The lure of dollars is flashy when we look to China. Building relationships with that nation, however, makes us further dependent on its economic model of optimized exploitation. That sickens me that we would seek to be a parasite on such a moral criminal.
    3. “New Democrats have taken the lead in having in-depth discussions with community business leaders to figure out the best ways for B.C. to seize the opportunity of our new status with China.” This is simply incompatible with Sustainable BC. In fact, I would expect the BC Liberals to endorse the NDP’s actions here. Further, this approach reflects what kind of listening the BC NDP is doing with British Columbians and what kind of choices and priorities it is making. And when I say that I want a BC NDP that is a beacon of hope, clarity, vision and inspiration to address the dire economic, energy and environmental challenges we have created for ourselves, this is just heading in the wrong direction.
    4. And frankly, it is somewhat galling that the Chinese government, a gang that is profoundly not anyone’s role model, should bestow on us an approved destination status. Actually, it is more a reflection of our sorry state of economic morality. So much for ever trying to tie human rights improvements to continued trade with China when what we really want is for them to like us enough to let us lure their new idle rich to our resorts.
    5. Finally, “New Democrat tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert raised concerns about B.C.’s readiness to get the word out that we are open for business [my emphasis]. Sadly, we need to rewind to 1984 to see how “open for business” began such an economically despairing quarter century of Canadian economic history: “Canada is open for business again,” said Brian Mulroney. His audience, 1,450 U.S. executives and their guests at an Economic Club of New York dinner in Manhattan’s Hilton Hotel, evidently liked what they heard: they gave Canada’s new Prime Minister two standing ovations. Mulroney, 45, vowed that his government would be “there to assist and not to harass the private sector in creating new wealth and the new jobs that Canada needs.” Honestly? I cannot see how the BC NDP can be a beacon of hope for the 21st century if it is now spouting Mulroney Free Trade rhetoric.

I want the BC NDP to be worthy of support as not just a lite-beer alternative to the BC Liberals. I want the party to be so focused on a sustainable 21st century and beyond that people flock to it.

I’m not seeing it now.

What I am seeing is the party ignoring its Sustainable BC policy for years now. The party has finally started recognizing its membership is in decline despite its polling improvements and success in the legislature, but it is unable to figure out why. That’s just sad.

We need only look to the party’s new Our Province, Our Future consultation process to see what it is blind to: membership engagement. Practically everything I wrote about unions engaging their membership applies to political parties. But when we look at the Our Province, Our Future website discussion forum we see only 14 posts in almost 2 months.

Granted, not all party members are all over the interwebs. Many don’t have email. Many won’t share their email address with the party. But the party does have at least a few thousand member email addresses. But how many members have received an invitation to contribute to the Our Province, Our Future website discussion forum. How many have received an email letting them know the site even exists? Seriously, how hard would it be to at the very least email a few thousand members? Fundraising emails come out without much difficulty. Why not something of more substance if the party values members for more than their financial contributions?

The conclusion I do not want to draw from this is that the party leadership is not really interested in engaging its membership beyond taking their money. But judging from this wholly inadequate explanation for the Our Province, Our Future promotional methods, I have little left to conclude.

I had a dream of Sisyphus and futility. How many times should a voter look to the same political party for signs of hope? A short answer rests in the appalling voter turnout last May, under 50% for the first time ever. Beyond the party’s membership decline, it saw a decline in donations in key ridings, a decline in volunteers, and a decline in its base actually turning out to vote.

Sisyphus was trapped, but BC voters aren’t. If the BC NDP continues to show itself largely bereft of progressive vision, inspiration and policy that can truly address the real challenges of the 21st century, people will go elsewhere.

I can’t help but think about how inspirational it was for the BC NDP to bring Thomas Homer-Dixon to its 2007 convention to speak about resilience and being proactive in the face of paradigm shifting challenges. That was an inspiring time. Sustainable BC was a grand policy statement at that convention that spoke to Homer-Dixon’s issues, all a year and a half before the last election. People were optimistic.

Then it all ended up under the bus.

And now we’re sucking up to China for tourism investment and the party is channeling Brian Mulroney.