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Posts Tagged ‘manitoba ndp’

I won’t comment on whether or not it’s appropriate for the Premier and Finance Minister to be spending so much time in a hot tub even as they expect their cabinet ministers to take a pay cut.  What I will say is that it’s truly remarkable how often the NDP government finds itself unexpectedly in years past.  It seems like a surreal concept at first… I mean, a hot tub that functions at a time machine… but how else can you explain NDP policies?

Now, unlike the movie, they’re not always transported back to 1986, as that year is usually reserved for the NDP approach to business regulations.  Today’s episode (#354) has Rosann Wowchuk planted firmly in 2008.  The rest of humanity lives on in 2010, looking for signs of recovery and debating how to pay back the deficits from the past two years.  Meanwhile, the NDP are looking full speed behind, looking at changing their own balanced budget law so that they can continue to run deficits until 2014 after spending all of 2009 bragging about how well the Manitoba economy has been doing.  Here’s how I see it: Either Manitoba fared well, and we should have a shorter period of deficit than everyone else (or none at all), or Manitoba fared just as badly as the rest of the country and four straight years of deficit is justified.  It can’t be both things; if the NDP is trying to claim that it is both things, there is only one explanation: mismanagement of public money.

Cherenkov has a good post, Budget analysis: ouch, talking about the numbers, and Curtis has some good points about the idea of fake frugality (Frugality Is Dead: Long Live Frugality).  And Dr. Gerrard also shows the NDP overspending with his post, NDP budget: For ten years the NDP have shown poor budgeting and poor expenditure management.

To me, the most concerning aspect of this budget is what it means for 2014.  As Cherenkov points out, the NDP always misses the mark in its planning, spending more than it originally set out to do.  As well, the Rainy Day Fund is likely to disappear altogether, as the government’s initial estimate is that the fund will be brought down from $800 million to $200 million; we’re already used to overly optimistic estimates from this government during easier times.

How does the Manitoba government plan on balancing the books in 2014?  More Rainy Day transfers from an emptying account?  More service fees?  A moratorium on paying for the City of Winnipeg’s pet project of the month?  The truth is, there is no plan.  None at all…

No, wait… that’s not fair…

The plan is: keep treading water until November 2011. Once the election hangover has passed, the NDP will come up with something to tell Manitobans, be it new taxes, program cuts, or perhaps a new venture involving the marketing of Manitoban’s organs to the Chinese government.  It’s surprising that there are no Toga parties in the NDP offices at the Legislature considering the dorm-room mentality.  Why study the budget today, when you can have fun and spend?  We won’t need to do any work until 2012… woo-hoo!

Ah… so there’s that hot tub again… it’s not always for time travel.  Sometimes it’s just for having a good time.


“Party on, NDP!”

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Q: What do pet adoption rates tell us about our economy?

A: It tells us quite a bit more than we get from stats on consumer spending or consumer confidence.

If I were to buy a TV or even a car, it could be for one of two reasons:
a.    I need a TV/Car
b.    Wouldn’t it be cool to have the latest/fanciest TV/Car?  I’m going to buy one!

You could argue that people who NEED an item would not be buying the newest or best example of that item, but that’s not always true.  When we needed a car because the last one was attacked by a falling tree, we didn’t buy the cheapest used one available; we found a more expensive one, because it had the features that we had been without with the last car.  Yes, we have to pay every month for it, but we decided that we wanted a safe car to take our daughter places that aren’t particularly bus-accessible (or for when we have a case of the lazies).  So we would have bought some kind of new or almost-new car, and we didn’t feel that economic circumstances could bring us to a different result.

When we finally buy a new TV (we’ve lost three in the past year, and have been taking other people’s TVs to our palliative care facility), it won’t be the cheapest; it’ll be the one that best fits in our living room (probably 32 or 36 inches).   And with the TV, we’ll buy it once, and that’ll be it.  We won’t be financing it or leasing it, so we don’t need to worry if we’ll have money to make payments in three months.

Pet adoption is a different story.  Adopting a pet is a commitment to take responsibility for another life.  If money is tight, or a family is worried about keeping their jobs, adopting a pet will seem like a luxury they can’t afford.  At least that’s my assumption, since pet shelters are overflowing with animals, and adoptions are nowhere near keeping pace.

When I read in the paper that consumer confidence is up or that Christmas retail sales are at a good level, it doesn’t say nearly as much as when I hear that many pet shelters can’t take any new animals and that foster families are maxed out.  That information, coupled with the personal stories of bankruptcy that are becoming far more common, tells me that we’re still in the middle of this economic downturn.  And Manitoba has not escaped the effects; we’re just seeing them happen in slow motion compared to our friends in other provinces, and as transfer payments are slashed, it’ll take us longer than our neighbours to recover.

And following that uplifting anecdote…

Q: Why is downtown parking becoming the polarizing debate of our time?

A: People seem to have deluded themselves into thinking that parking is the core issue of downtown revitalization.

I know that parking is an important part of the character of our downtown, and I don’t like staring at surface parking lots or the WRHA’s tribute to urban decline on Main Street.  But realistically, I know that the city will continue to worship parking, just as I do between Christmas and Easter, and fighting downtown parking is like chaining yourself to the McDonalds at the Louvre to protest the lack of McRibs while museum staff is busy painting a bra onto the Venus de Milo.

There are two issues in downtown that turn parking into a boneless pork patty: historic preservation and residential growth.  I agree that surface lots don’t disappear when parkades are built, particularly when surface lots are left intact while adjacent historic buildings are torn down to make space for new parking; I know many people who will gladly exchange a bus pass for a parking spot if supply outstrips demand and prices start to drop.  Personally, I like the idea of incentives for surface lot redemption, to be followed after several years by a surface parking levy to finance further incentives.  In addition, it should be made impossible for ANY structurally sound building to be replaced with a parking structure or surface lot as long as there are existing surface lots on the same block.

But that doesn’t mean that parkades should be banned, or that all surface lot owners should have to pay five times the taxes because “there ought to be a building there”.  If they want to put a parkade in the East Exchange, I wouldn’t stand in their way if:
a.    No existing buildings are demolished
b.    Street-level commercial space is incorporated into the parkade
c.    The architectural design of the parkade is deemed acceptable by city council

Obviously, in a perfect world, I would put far stricter requirements on the construction of parkades in the Exchange District; one item I’d love to add is that construction materials for the building façade should come from reclaimed brick, but I don’t think that’s realistic in our current political environment.  As with everything else, city council will not back the Exchange District 100% until they are utterly convinced of just how valuable the area is.  I find it strange that the East Side of Lake Winnipeg is considered UNESCO-worthy by the province, but the Exchange District is left to be demolished one building at a time.

Why is it that a provincial park around Fisher Bay is touted as being worth $38 million, while the Exchange District, a national historic site, is completely ignored?  Do our governments have no concept of how much that neighbourhood is worth, or how much potential it has?  In the words of Councillor O’Shaughnessy: “The debate is getting lower and lower and lower. Please don’t compare this building or even our whole exchange district with the walled city of Quebec.”   Because the Exchange District will have no historical value no matter how old it gets,  we should replace it with parkades while financing is cheap.

And lastly…

Q: Why do NDP apologists feel the need to defend every action by every member of the Manitoba government?

A: Because it seems to work?  Does it?

I understand the idea of supporting your party; I even launched an incredibly successful fundraising campaign for the Manitoba Liberals: Help Block Out PC Websites! (as of today, only 6% behind the Progressive Conservative Fundraising Campaign!)

But sometimes, the men and women of your political party make mistakes.  I won’t list any Liberal mistakes, but I will admit (shockingly) that mistakes have been made.  If bloggers such as Never Eat Yellow Snow and Just Damn Stupid were to focus on defending more defensible actions on the part of the NDP, wouldn’t people be more convinced that their points of view have merit?

Note: I do apologize if any of my past actions mixed with this post now warrant a BlockReganHypocrisy.ca.

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A strange fundraising campaign has been launched by the Manitoba PC Party.  They are asking people to donate $10 for a “virtual cell phone” that will cover up part of a photo from Nov 2008 (a year ago) of Deputy Premier Rosann Wowchuk using her cell phone while driving, a shocking and rather stale example of NDP hypocrisy.

So of course, I needed to get a piece of that action.  I’ll get into that later…

I just don’t understand how these antics demonstrate that the Progressive Conservatives are ready to assume leadership of this province.  Their Chicken Wing Party of Manitoba of 2008 still has a Facebook page, and one can only hope that during its active phase it had more than the 30 members it has today.

Curtis has an unusual response to the latest PC campaign, while Cherenkov says what I think most of us are thinking.  So what would I have done better?  That’s a difficult question.  I can certainly understand the frustration that the PC party is feeling; as a Liberal, I’m frustrated, too.  The NDP have been responsible for some very serious scandals over the past decade, including mistakes that have cost lives, as well as an ongoing matter with Manitoba Hydro that could result in billions of dollars being lost.  But at the end of the day, many Manitobans are still supporting the NDP party.

I have a few ideas I’m working on for how to get Manitobans to start listening to alternatives, and I may try some of them out on this very blog.  But for the time being, I’ll just leave it at this: for anyone who donates a minimum of ten dollars to the Manitoba Liberal Party, and who e-mails or posts a comment to let me know (we can use the honour system and clever pseudonyms, since I won’t bother checking), I will add one package of Beef Jerky to cover up this banner for the PC Victory Fund.

Exhibit A: The Beef Jerky of Liberal Justice

Exhibit B: The Victory Fund Banner (until the takedown notice arrives).

Note: As this brilliant campaign took 10 minutes to develop, I won’t be too upset if I don’t get my 30 fans.

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Assuming that the Free Press is correct, Swan will be dropping out today.

I don’t have time today for one of my long-winded posts, so I’ll just put out a few thoughts because I don’t want my latest word on this to be my prediction that Swan could win.  🙂

I don’t think anyone truly expected Ashton to be doing as well as he is, but it looks like his delegate count is within range of winning.  I imagine that, like me, Ashton and his campaign team expected a much stronger showing from Swan to take delegates away from Selinger.  Of course, a political strategist (i.e., not me) would most likely have foreseen that the chances were high that either Swan or Selinger could drop out before Oct 17th, which could still ruin the chance of a first ballot win.  And with only Selinger as his big opponent, that means a Selinger win (there will only be one ballet).

I like what I’m seeing in the NDP; for too long, it has been the Gary Doer party, relying solely on the abilities and attentions of one person.  This led to serious holes in NDP governance, with little to no improvement in health care or justice.  Hopefully an NDP government that relies more on its members for ideas and support will be a government that is a little less focused on the legacy and survival of the premier and more on the needs of Manitobans.

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It wouldn’t be fair to expect any replacement for Gary Doer to be as well-versed in political strategy as the outgoing premier; it takes time to learn to play the leader game, and even high-ranking cabinet ministers need some time to develop their skills.  However, some of the strategies currently employed by leadership hopefuls are unexpected and unconventional.

Odd Strategy #1: Ashton – we’ve got this thing in the bag

Ashton decided to have an announcement about his 1,100 new members, saying that he thinks he’ll win on the first ballot.  If this is a strategy meant to demoralize his competition, I think he’s underestimating the sheer organizational power of both Swan and Selinger.  Both of his opponents have strong teams, and matching 1,100 new members is nowhere near an impossible task for a campaign machine, as long as they aren’t just starting now with two days left.  I know from firsthand experience that a campaign team can seem dormant for weeks, until it comes out all of the sudden and surpasses all competitors.  The NDP machine didn’t move as quickly as we expected in Elmwood, but on the final day of advance polling, the NDP machine swung into action.  By the time election day came around, the NDP had hundreds of workers in Elmwood, and even the Conservatives had brought dozens of staffers and MLAs to get out the vote.

It could simply be a strategy to make sure that Ashton isn’t seen as an “also-ran” by the media.  Already, it seems that there is strong interest in Swan and Selinger, with Ashton sometimes being left to a small mention at the end of the story.

Odd Strategy #2: Swan – pick me, I’m young!

I understand the benefits of being a younger candidate, and I understand the drawbacks.  By placing emphasis on his age, is Swan bringing in votes or accentuating his inexperience compared to his competitors?  Some have likened the situation to the days when Doer took over from Pawley, and that because Doer was young then, it makes sense that his successor should be young now.  There is a strong difference, however, between the end of the Pawley days with the end of the Doer days: a majority of people still like Gary Doer’s leadership, and are sorry to see him go.  When Pawley was finished, it was clear that the voters were looking for a big change; I doubt that most of the NDP members who will be voting at the leadership convention are looking for a big change, and of those who do want to shake things up, they’re probably not wanting another Doer.

In a situation where a popular leader is stepping down, it’s a good idea to paint yourself as that leader’s preferred successor.  But by reminding NDP members of just how young he is, and by extension how short his public service has been, Swan is not quite framing himself as a stable continuation of Doer; instead, he looks like an untested option, with little track record to show.

Odd Strategy #3: Selinger – endorsements are the tops

I don’t doubt that Selinger’s people are working hard to bring members on board; however, his outward-facing campaign is underwhelming considering how powerful a contender he is.  His entry was late, and his announcements so far have been rather uninspiring.  He has received some good endorsements, and while endorsements are more important in member votes than in general elections, they’re still not enough when another candidate is working hard to be the man of the people.  Unless Selinger is connecting to NDP members en masse, his private lobbying may not be enough.

Predictions

I believe that Swan’s campaign team has the edge right now, because they have backing from many powerful figures in the Manitoba NDP.  As long as the NDP delegates aren’t made up primarily of left-wing activists, I feel that Swan has wide enough appeal to win, as long as his campaign team does a good job.  However, if any mud-slinging begins between Swan and Selinger, the advantage may shift to Ashton, who has strong “good guy” appeal along with his popularity among long-time NDP members.  I think that if Selinger’s campaign doesn’t start picking up, he may end up being too late to win.

If I were to place a bet today, it would be on Swan… but I wouldn’t bet very much.

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Things are moving quickly in the NDP leadership race (as they must, as candidates have only until Sept 17th to sign up new members who can serve as delegates).  As the field narrows, we are starting to see what kind of race will take place.

Likely candidates:

Greg Selinger: Selinger has the aura of someone who has always expected to be leader someday, and it looks like the media will be ready to consider him the front-runner.  The Selinger scandals, including Crocus and his self-serving role in the election financing fiasco (where he knew it was wrong, but didn’t bother to speak out), probably won’t hurt his chances of becoming Premier.

Steve Ashton: Ashton has a pretty good reputation, and has been an MLA since 1981.  His biggest challenge will be the delegate system, which gives more weight to Winnipeg and to union delegates.  Ashton is no stranger to unions, but if he doesn’t win their endorsement, his campaign may founder.

Andrew Swan: Swan is pretty popular in pundit and media circles, but I’m not sure that translates to the NDP as a whole.  Due to his shorter career as a cabinet minister (two years), there’s a strong chance that his run will be viewed more as a way to raise his profile for another leadership run in the future.

There are some other possible candidates, particularly Peter Bjornson and Stan Struthers, but my expectation is that the top three candidates will be Selinger, Ashton, and Swan.

While Selinger may be considered the front-runner now, that can definitely shift during the lead-up to the convention or even on the convention floor.

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Not surprisingly, Bill Blaikie said today that he never had any intention of running for the leadership.  I didn’t think that he would want the job, and unless there is a significant “Draft Blaikie” campaign, Bill Blaikie is out of the race.

Greg Selinger seems to be hinting that he is going to run, which should make him the leadership candidate to beat.  However, it sounds like Gord Mackintosh is also considering a run, and he is also rumoured to have a strong team of supporters.

Rumours are circulating about Peter Bjornson also considering, while it’s still assumed that Steve Ashton is leaning towards running.  Theresa Oswald and Pat Martin are possibilities, but I believe it’s unlikely that either will run.  Nancy Allan is definitely out.

Doer has said that caucus will expect any leadership candidates to remove themselves as ministers, and that the legislative session from Sept 14th to Oct 8th will go forward.  The new leader will be chosen Oct 17th, but it’s not yet clear if Doer will remain as Premier until that date.

References:
Fall Session to go Ahead, Tom Brodbeck, Winnipeg Sun
New premier arrives Oct. 17, Bruce Owen and Larry Kusch, Winnipeg Free Press

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