Monday, April 16, 2018

Liberals’ policy convention a ‘litmus test’ of Grit membership, a time for leadership to listen, say Libs

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Liberals’ policy convention a ‘litmus test’ of Grit membership, a time for leadership to listen, say Libs

By Samantha Wright Allen      

The Liberal convention in Halifax April 19 to 21 is the last chance for party members to talk policy ahead of the 2019 election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will head to the Liberal Party's biennial convention in Halifax this week at the end of an international trip to Peru, London, and Paris with a quick mid-way stop back in Canada Sunday to navigate Kinder Morgan pipeline problems with B.C. and Alberta. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
When more than 2,500 Liberals sweep into Halifax for their last national policy convention before the 2019 election, Grits say the party’s senior leadership should look to the gathering to gauge, engage, and mobilize the base for the next general campaign. 

They also say the party’s top brass has to listen.
While not likely to prompt surprise additions to the platform, national policy conventions are a place where “you really can push the agenda,” said longtime former Liberal Hill staffer Kevin Bosch, although he said the flip side is the government is “absolutely free to ignore” those directions. 

Policy conventions are important for “keeping Liberals, Liberals” when governments have a tendency to “go off in direction or become captive of the views of bureaucracy,” said Mr. Bosch, who has attended every policy convention since 1990 and is again headed to the Halifax Convention Centre from April 19 to 21.
“If those people start getting discouraged or disengaged, you’re in trouble. … 

They want to come out of [convention] unified, invigorated, definitely want to be pushing forward on the policy front,” said Mr. Bosch, who is now Hill + Knowlton’s vice-president of public affairs.

Impact, then, depends on how loud membership is on a particular policy and whether senior leadership is listening, something Liberal Senator Terry Mercer (Northend Halifax, N.S.) said is essential for success at this weekend’s biennial event.

“The party leadership should come with an open mind and a willingness listen to what members are saying,” he said and pay attention “to any rumblings that the party wants to move in one direction or another,” especially given the membership can be a reflection of what the public is thinking.

Liberal Senator Terry Mercer said having the convention in Halifax shows the leadership recognizes how important the region is for the Liberals. The Hill Times file photograph

Improving communications is one area this government should focus on, said Sen. Mercer, who was the party’s fundraising director in 1995 and national director from 1997 to 2003.

The approach to its controversial Summer Jobs Grant attestation is one such example, where members like Sen. Mercer agree with the party’s unabashed pro-choice stance, but “it’s the implementation that may not meet with everybody’s approval.”

So, not necessarily what they’re doing, but how they’re doing it, may earn critique from members.

“We’ve got some good things … some good policies, but we’re not communicating them well,” said Sen. Mercer. “We’ve fallen in the trap of bundling things together in too big bills.”

The “omnibus” bills open the government to criticism that it is repeating the approach it slammed their predecessor for —and “God forbid that we ever get compared to Harper,” said Sen. Mercer —it’s also a lost opportunity to be seen as moving forward on files where they can win support from Canadians.

“We could have scored some major political points,” he said, like in the case of Bill C-49’s changes to the Transportation Act, which if split he estimated the agriculture portion could have passed both chambers “not overnight but very quickly.”

When you “lump it all together,” Sen. Mercer said, “you waste your poltical capital.”

This convention won’t be the place for a major “turn of the rudder,” said former Liberal MP Joe Jordan, but rather to reaffirm some of the party’s core positions.

“It’s a quick litmus test about the base,” Mr. Jordan said. “The people that go to these conventions are generally lifelong Liberals.”
On the whole, they said the mood in the party is good, with members still confident in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.). 

None seemed concerned about the dip in polls recently, most pronounced after the gaffe-filled trip to India—an issues management nightmare for the Liberals. 

This is a party that came back from a devastating loss in 2011, they noted, and weeks out from the 2015 election the polls weren’t showing the red surge that led to the current majority government. As Liberal MP Darren Fisher (Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, N.S.) put it, 18 months from election “is a lifetime” and Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said “polls come and go” and it’s “a distraction to pay attention to them.”

Decriminalizing sex trade, Kinder Morgan likely hot policy topics

Ranging from environment, to health, to justice, many of the 30 policies up for discussion this week suggest calling on the government to continue with its existing approach, some should prompt lively debate.

The controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline is likely to come up during an Alberta-supported resolution to implement a strategy for oil and gas independence that presents interprovincial pipeline construction as “an opportunity for nation-building and Canadian infrastructure development.”

Mr. Trudeau changed international travel plans, returning mid-way through his trip Sunday to navigate the stalemate between B.C. and Alberta’s NDP governments after the company threatened to cease “non-essential” spending.

And, Sen. Mercer noted there are additional political ramifications because both are provinces are where the party hopes to do better than it has in the past. It has only three Liberal seats in Alberta and will have to fight to keep its 18 seats in B.C. where NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is setting his sights on seat gain.

The 30 resolutions at convention are in line with existing approaches, but the one policy jumps out to Mr. Bosch is a motion to decriminalize sex work.

“In my view, that’s probably the most contentious of the resolutions on the order paper,” he said, adding he’s not sure where the party will come down on it.
Nova Scotia Grit MP Darren Fisher pictured with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
That has also “piqued” Mr. Fisher’s interest, as well as a Manitoba resolution to create a made in Canada Tax Credit Program to drive wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass investment.

“I find that fascinating as well, but the of idea a tax credit isn’t something that our government has necessarily been hugely supportive of so I think it’s going to be a good discussion,” he said.
One policy on flying time put forward by the Yukon Liberals discussing how many hours a commercial pilot is allowed to fly is likely to garner disagreement, Mr. Bosch said.

“That’s contentions because it’ll have a big impact on rural and remote communities, the cost of tickets and cargo,” he said. “It’s sort of contrary to what [Transport Minister Marc] Garneau is proposing.”

Mr. Fisher said he’s excited to see pharmacare put forward, an idea that came out of the national caucus and appeared in budget. It’s something several ridings have put forward, indicating it’s an idea “whose time has come,” said Mr. Bosch. 

At its recent policy convention, the NDP signalled a universal plan for both prescription drugs and dental care would be pillars of its platform. 

Mr. Fisher said he’s not concerned the two parties running a similar platform, that it’s about “doing what’s best for Canadians” and it’s the “the right thing to do.”

He also highlighted a policy motion he said was planned by provincial colleague Liberal MP Mark Eyking (Sydney-Victoria, N.S.) that has his support.

“He’s hoping to get [employment insurance] for up to 50 weeks for people with disease that keeps them from working,” he said, noting that right now Canadians only get 15 weeks for chronic illness.
The party is often years, even decades ahead of government and the caucus, Mr. Bosch added.

“That’s not a bad thing,” he said noting the Young Liberals are well known for being ahead of that curve. “You want to constantly create the new path but not get so radical that you’re so fall out to left field that Canadians are not willing to follow you.”

Youngest policy convention on record, Atlantic Canada rewarded

With more than 2,500 registrants a week out, the Liberal policy convention is shaping up to be a big one. Registrations were outpacing the previous year a week out from the event, with hundreds more expected to register the day-of and days before, said Liberal spokesman Braeden Caley.
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore’s office has been working for months to help the party get the convention together and has found MPs turning to him as a bit of a travel guide for advice on what to see and where to stay in his hometown. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

For the first time on record the convention will consist of a majority of people who have never been to a poltical convention, added Mr. Caley, and as of Thursday 25 per cent of the convention attendees were age 25 and under.

That’s thanks to the party’s new approach to membership, said outgoing party president Anna Gainey, in reference changes adopted during the 2016 Winnipeg convention when the party took on a revamped constitution that did away with paid memberships to open the party up.

Throughout the day Friday, the party will hold policy workshops to debate the 30 resolutions on the floor, with voting on Saturday during the policy plenary expected to whittle down those policies to 20 priorities. That’s down from hundreds put forward at the riding level, where members debated and voted at regional meetings before 39 were posted online. 

The party held an open online policy discussion forum last month where it logged more than 1,200 comments by registered Liberals, followed by a prioritization vote with nearly 6,000 registered members.

For the first time the convention will come to Nova Scotia, which Liberals see as a reward for Atlantic Canada’s support of the party over the years, and especially in 2015 when the party swept all 32 seats.

The region deserves credit for making up a large MP contingent even “in the dark days” when the party was decimated to third-party status.
“It kept the lights on,” said Sen. Mercer.

New blood to national board

The convention will also bring in new blood to the party’s national board, senior’s commission, the young Liberals, and the women’s and seniors commission.
Suzanne Cowan is the Liberal Party’s next president. Photograph courtesy of Suzanne Cowan
Many of the posts aren’t contested, including that of national president. Halifax’s own Suzanne Cowan will be acclaimed to the post.
Ms. Cowan has deep connections to Team Trudeau and is credited as one of the architects of his successful Liberal leadership and 2015 election campaigns.
Ms. Gainey said her successor has the right experience and likely doesn’t need advice on how to hit the ground running. The whole board will likely be focused on election-readiness over the next 18 months as a “natural priority,” she said.

March 30, 2009, Hill Times, Libs buy same voter-targeting software used by U.S. Democratic Party and Obama

March 30, 2009, Hill Times, Libs buy same voter-targeting software used by U.S. Democratic Party and Obama

Was it Paid for...where is the paper trail and what did OBAMA have to do with it???

Monday, March 26, 2018

Andrew Coyne: Liberals' effort to blackmail churches over abortion opposition

    Andrew Coyne: Liberals' effort to blackmail churches over abortion opposition backfires More to the point, the Canada Summer Jobs controversy has moved many of those who support the status quo to concede that people have a right to dissent from it      

SEE original LINK

If you want to know how the Liberals managed to turn a 20-point lead in the polls into a five-point deficit in little more than a year, a good place to start is their apparently sincere belief that they could blackmail the country’s churches into dropping their opposition to abortion.

The unseriousness that is the distinguishing feature of this government takes many forms — the prime minister’s foppish persona and shallow philosophizing; his habit of announcing sweeping policy changes, without having first thought how to implement them; the casual jettisoning of some of these, where the consequences proved politically bothersome — but among them is a fanatical seriousness on certain issues, a dogmatic insistence on its position, as intense and unyielding as its commitment to others has proved cynical and transitory.

I think this is a better explanation for the latest exploding cigar the Liberals have lit for themselves — the sudden demand that church groups and other organizations seeking to hire students under the Canada Summer Jobs program must first “attest” that their “core mandate” respects “reproductive rights” — than the alternative theory: that this was part of some fiendish plot to flush out the anti-abortionists in the opposition, polarize opinion, and rally women to the Liberal flag.
A similar fiendishness, you’ll recall, was supposed to explain the small-business tax changes: position the Liberals as champions of tax fairness, paint the Tories as apologists for rich tax cheats, clean up politically. But whereas the party has been in more or less steady retreat from the latter fiasco, the worse the fight with the churches has got, the deeper the government has dug itself in. At some point one has to conclude they really mean it.

This is, after all, hardly the first time the Liberals, under their current leader, have attempted to demonize any and all opposition to abortion, no matter how mild, as outside the bounds of civilized debate. There was the ban on pro-lifers running as candidates for the Liberal party, or on Liberal MPs voting anything but the party line on abortion, notwithstanding the tradition that such matters of conscience should be left to free votes.

There was the walkout in protest at the Conservatives’ nomination of reputed pro-lifer Rachael Harder for chair of the Status of Women committee, as if her views on the question automatically disqualified her from representing the interests and concerns of Canadian women.

And now this. No big deal, you understand: you can continue to hold whatever beliefs you like about abortion, the government told faith groups. You just have to sign a document pretending you don’t.
This is hardly the first time the Liberals, under their current leader, have attempted to demonize any and all opposition to abortion, no matter how mild
So you can believe abortion should be outlawed, but if you want to receive government funds, you must affirm it is a right. Or, as the government later “clarified,” that whatever “activities” you conduct will respect that right. Not surprisingly, the churches have been no more receptive to this updated opportunity to exchange their consciences for cash than they were the first.

And not only the churches. Amazingly, the primary effect of the government’s ham-handed attempt to banish abortion opponents to the margin of Canadian society has been to give them the most sympathetic hearing they have have had in years, even from a media that leans overwhelmingly in favour of abortion rights.

They have had the chance to make the point that, in fact, there is no constitutional right to an abortion, whether in the text of the Charter or in the jurisprudence arising from it.

 The 1988 Morgentaler ruling, in particular, was concerned only with the law that was on the books at the time, not whether any abortion law would be constitutional. Indeed, several of the justices, notably Bertha Wilson, offered suggestions as to what sort of law would pass constitutional muster.

So, too, we have been reminded that the absence of an abortion law owes not to any decision by the House of Commons, but to a tie vote of the Senate, by which means Kim Campbell’s abortion bill, though passed by the Commons, was allowed to die; that the resulting legal vacuum, far from the norm, makes Canada the outlier among democratic states; and that, notwithstanding the passage of 30 years, public opinion remains sharply divided on the question, with upwards of 60 per cent typically supporting limits of some kind.

More to the point, the controversy has moved many of those who support the status quo to concede that people have a right to dissent from it. Even if abortion were defined in law as a right, the oddity of upholding that right by trampling others’ rights — to conscience, to speech — has been widely observed: it is not against the law to oppose a law. Indeed, the attestation requirement is almost certainly unconstitutional.

And yet, when a motion denouncing the policy came to a vote last week in the House of Commons, not only did virtually every Liberal and every New Democrat vote against it, but NDP member David Christopherson, the lone dissenter in his party, was stripped of a committee post as punishment. Not only is it impermissible to oppose abortion, it seems, but even to suggest that others should be allowed to do so.

Such is the absurd competition in which the two parties are engaged, each seeking to stake out the most extreme position on the question, each denouncing everyone else — other countries, two-thirds of the population, Bertha Wilson — as the extremists.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

TRUDEAU DELIVERS >> Sigmund Freud once famously asked: “What do women want?”

TRUDEAU/MORNEAU  Budget2018 Pro NO choice Budget

Sigmund Freud once famously asked: “What do women want?”

I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t want to be told what I want by millionaire men in suits.

According to calculations made by a few enterprising reporters, gender was mentioned 358 times in the 367-page federal budget document that was released on Feb. 27.

This fiscal focus on the fairer sex is designed to make us females feel forever beholden to Canada’s Panderer-in-Chief, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is constantly reminding us that he’s a feminist, and his Deputy Panderer-in-Chief, Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

In his budget speech on equality, Morneau makes it clear that his goal is to get as many women into the workforce as soon as possible by ramping up funding for more subsidized child-care spaces, use-it-or-lose-it paternity leave, more money for women entrepreneurs, and the list goes on and on.

“By taking steps to advance equality for women — such as employing more women in technology and boosting women’s participation in the workforce — Canada could add $150 billion to its economy by 2026,” enthused Morneau.

Most of my girlfriends would rather be stuck in a room with Harvey Weinstein for a week than get a job in technology, but apparently, father knows best. Not only should women hurry up and get a job, but he’s even suggesting what field they should work in. Isn’t that kind of him? Morneau doesn’t want us worrying our pretty little heads about such matters. 

He added that Canada’s economy would grow by four per cent if we had a completely equal split of men and women in the workforce. “Four per cent, Mr. Speaker!” emphasized Morneau.
There was no extra money, however, to help women stay home with their children — something that many women crave.

 There was no suggestion anywhere in the budget that some women might choose to stay home to raise their kids or care for their elderly loved ones. There’s no recognition of the immense value of this kind of unpaid work, which is insulting.

In the government’s desperate attempt to prove to women how feministic it is, it has perhaps unfolded one of the most paternalistic, anti-choice budgets in decades.

This drive to get women to find jobs pronto is particularly curious when you look at the wives of the men pushing this agenda. Morneau’s wife, Nancy McCain Morneau, a member of the billionaire family that owns McCain Foods, doesn’t work, nor does it appear she has ever had a career. Is she not contributing to Canada? 

And what of Sophie Gregoire Trudeau? Shouldn’t she lead by example, go get a tech job and help contribute to the nation’s GDP? After all, she has a full-time nanny paid for by Canadian taxpayers.
Oh, wait! Maybe she doesn’t want to work outside the home. Perhaps she wants to spend as much time as possible with her kids and be flexible to take fully funded vacations with her children to the Aga Khan’s private island and to India.

Funny how that works, eh? Even with McCain’s millions and even with Trudeau’s full-time, fully funded nanny, some women still want to stay home with their kids, despite having no barriers to pursuing a career. Well, guess what, Misters Morneau and Trudeau? What’s good for the wealthy goose is good for the middle-class goose too — not that you’d understand.

Nowhere in the speech does Morneau mention that the deficit for 2018-19 is going to be $18.1 billion, despite promising in 2015 to balance the books by 2019.

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canada’s federal debt is growing at a rate $80 million per day: “This level of borrowing is costing Canadians . . . $26 billion per year just paying the annual interest on the debt.”

Unlike Morneau and Trudeau, I don’t presume to speak for all women, but I do know what I want when it comes to budgets. I want to see a plan to balance the books for the sake of future generations and I don’t want two out-of-touch millionaires telling me what I want.