Sunday, 13 April 2014

Jim Flaherty, RIP

Jim Flaherty, Canada's 37th Finance Minister.

Image Source: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press
In the upcoming weeks this blog will look at the new Finance Minister, how they fit within the broader context of the Harper Government, and what this means for Canada. Before moving towards discussions of the future, however, it is important to acknowledge a very recent and very tragic event: the death of former Finance minister Jim Flaherty.

Flaherty was involved in Ontario provincial politics as a Progressive Conservative before his career at the Federal level, serving in a number of cabinet portfolios. Rising to Ottawa as an Whitby-Oshawa MP,  Jim Flaherty served as federal finance minister within Harper's first year as Prime Minister. He continued as finance minister until March of this year, resigning from cabinet and federal politics due to health reasons.

As a member of the Conservative Party of Canada Flaherty pursued the Prime Minister's agenda, which included spending cuts and slashing corporate taxes While generally a team player, Flaherty got into conflicts with others in the Conservative Caucus over family friend Rob Ford and income-splitting, a tax policy benefiting the wealthy he didn't support.  

On most matters, though, the Whitby-Oshawa MP worked tirelessly to forward Harper's Conservative policy agenda. While I strongly disagree with most of Flaherty's agenda (with the admission that there were some good pieces borne of his more pragmatic instincts), it is utterly sad to know a fellow human being is dead. The deceased Ontarian will be deeply missed by friends and family, including the many politicians he worked with and debated with.

Former Winnipeg blogger and prolific Winnipeg tweeter Scott MacNeil puts it best:

Friday, 4 April 2014

Transit supporters have a field day with Fielding

City Councillor Scott Fielding

Image Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Scott Fielding is the City Councillor for the St. James - Brooklands ward. This rightwing Councillor has pondered leading the provincial Conservatives in the past and is expected by local political observers like Bartley Kives and Aldo Smith to be planning a mayoral run.

Now, how's Fielding going to distinguish himself in what looks like it'll be a field of many suburban-based conservatives vying for the mayor's chair come fall?

By stridently opposing plans to move forward on rapid transit!

A brilliant idea in a city that's talked about and shelved rapid transit plans for 50 years, eh?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Winnipeg RAG Review in ... shorter form

The Winnipeg RAG Review's content is cut down
to size for social media.

Image Source: Broken City Lab
As one can see the post count here's fallen off quite a bit within the last year. Rest assured that this Blogger blog is still in operation, even if at a less prolific rate. Some drafts (that may or may not become actual posts) are stewing in background right now.

But what's an eager reader to do in between the long dry spells between posts here?

Well, there's now social media content for thoughts and reflections that just don't merit a full, long form blog post.

 For the super short form, you can follow yours truly and Art Cramer on Twitter as before.

But now The Winnipeg RAG Review facebook page is no longer just a repository of links back to blog posts here. Original content for stuff that needs to be said in more than 140 characters but still much less than a typical longish form blog post is now there. Plus, it's interlinked with The Analyst's twitter feed so that twitter followers of yours truly can get Facebook page updates directing them to writings with more meat than the average tweet. 

Hope that keeps you satisfied.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Global perspective on fight against anti-gay bullying

Manitoba Education minister Nancy Allan hugs
Evan Wiens - teen bullied on camera for efforts
to start a Gay-Straigh Alliance in his Steinbach School.

Bill 18 protects the rights of students across the province of
Manitoba to organize gay-straigh alliances.

Image Source: 
Craig Young of wrote an article on efforts to fight bullying against LGBT students in New Zealand in September 2013. The fascinating article compares the efforts in New Zealand to similar struggles in the United States, the UK, and Canada - noting differing social contexts.

Particularly interesting, from my admittedly provincial perspective, is the singling out of Ontario and our own province of Manitoba as the two jurisdictions in Canada with laws fighting homophobic bullying. An earlier post in this blog is even included in the recommended readings section.

Overall, learning of the immense challenges that face LGTB students in schools should make us proud, as Manitobans, to have passed the Safe and Inclusive Schools measure of Bill 18. We have a long way to go towards a fully just society, but Bill 18 represents a series of needed and practical steps in the right direction. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Great idea, sure Winnipeg will get it...

... in 2150.

Protected Intersections For Bicyclists from Nick Falbo on Vimeo.

Now, it's good to see that bike infrastructure is on the upswing here. Thanks to tireless advocacy from Bike to the Future (now Bike Winnipeg) the Peg's meagre bikeways have expanded, including the very nice Assiniboine Avenue cycle track. Before much of the track was chopped off to provide parking for construction vehicles it served as a key part of many Winnipeg cyclists' trips. It still does, but in a much shorter section, which leads to awkward left turns onto the non-bikeway/motor vehicle side of Assiniboine Avenue.

The Disraeli Pedestrian Bridge and Pembina's buffered bike lanes add some connectivity to our bikeway network, but there's few places where with enough cycle tracks to necessitate protected intersections. Unless there's another round of $20 million Federal stimulus funds for Active Transporation and a mad rush to build them (which does lead to some hiccups with public consultation) it will be a very long time before the Peg's bikeways near the quality of Minneapolis's, let alone those of cities in the Netherlands.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

2011 lecture, attack ads, & nonvoters

In this lecture staged before the 2011 provincial election politics professor Shannon Sampert discusses negative ads and campaigning. Most of what she says is spot on.

There are, however, some issues when it comes to low voter turnout. True, some people (particularly those with middle incomes) tend to not vote as a sign of being okay with direction of Canada. But there are other groups of nonvoters who consistently don't turn out.

Take, for instance, aboriginal voters - who tend to vote at lower rates than the general population. While the data tends to be a bit thin, there's been waves of indigenous activism and internationally documented horrible living conditions in First Nations communities. This would seem to show that at least some aboriginal Canadians aren't satisfied with the direction of Canada, yet this fails to translate into ballot box activity.

Clearly, there's restless, non-complacent yet consistent non-voters out here that need to be mobilized.

Monday, 6 January 2014

New Year's Resolution - A Progressive City Hall (Guest Post)

Note: This is a guest post from Babble member Aristotled24, expressing his perspective on the state of municipal politics and potential openings for the left. Much of it was written in fall of 2013 and some specific details are dated (Justin Swandel has since returned to Mayor Katz's Executive Policy Community). Nevertheless, many of the observations are still relevant as left-progressive Winnipeggers struggle to shape civic policy and clean up the mess  Sam's left. 

Will Sam Katz be laughing his way to reelection
this year?

For the sake of Winnipeg, let's hope not.
Image SourceBorris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press
As Sam Katz approaches the last year of his current mandate, he has continually run into difficulty since being re-elected. These difficulties include:
An ill-advised plan to build a water park near The Forks.

Being accused (and later acquitted) of conflict-of-interest in court.
Facing these challenges, if Katz decides to run again, he is certain to be re-elected
This is not a typo. Sam Katz could easily win again.
Small c-conservative faux populist Sam Katz came
out ahead of challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis in the 2010
Mayoral election.

Could a left progressive beat Katz or another business
backed conservative this year?
Image SourceBorris Minkevich/Winnipeg Free Press
You may be wondering how this could be, considering his unpopularity and the perception of him being corrupt. Yes, people may not like Sam Katz, but people also don’t like politicians in general. Interest in municipal politics is quite low generally, which confers an advantage to incumbents, especially incumbents with money. And pointing out Katz shortcomings will not necessarily inspire people to vote for someone else. 
People were in the mood for a new vision in the last civic election, but as Judy Wasylicia-Leis failed to communicate exactly what that new vision was, people either voted for “the devil they knew” in Sam Katz, or more of them simply disengaged. The left cannot expect to coast to victory on Sam Katz unpopularity, especially if the interests who backed Katz back a different mayoral candidate with a similar agenda. 
There is little evidence to show that the left has learned the lessons of 2010 and is prepared for 2014, but there is still hope. Here is what needs to be done:
1) Party’s Over For The NDP
Vision Vancouver: A model
forward for Winnipeg

Image Source:
The current process of NDP-endorsed candidates is deeply flawed. As political parties have no official standing at city hall, this gives opponents a perfect target to claim that “NDP insiders” are trying to “hijack” the elections. This strategy has not only been ineffective at electing members in areas that are not already staunchly NDP, but NDP-endorsed candidates could not win in their traditional strongholds of Daniel Macyntire and Elmwood. It also excludes a large share of progressive voters. For example, John Orlikow can be counted as one of council’s progressives, but would not have been elected in his ward if he had run under the traditional NDP banner. 
The left needs to broaden the base, and can look to Vancouver as an example, even though municipal parties in Vancouver have official standing. Instead of the rigid partisan alliances that exist provincially and federally, the left in Vancouver has organized itself into looser coalitions manifesting as COPE and Vision Vancouver. This does not rule out NDP participation, as any left-of-centre project will inevitably have NDP fingerprints, but the NDP must give up its need to be in control.
2) What Are The Issue.
Progressives in each ward should be in contact with one another about area issues. A great way to keep in touch includes regular town halls every few months, along the lines that were organized in the early days of the Winnipeg Citizen’s Coalition. They’re a great way to keep the grassroots networks intact, and ready to go, especially in areas not represented by progressive councillors. 
An important aspect of reaching out to voters is identifying issues, and having a plan, because this is something tangible voters can hold someone accountable to. This also gives voters the confidence to take the risk of electing a new person over the incumbent. It is not merely enough to campaign on transparency and accountability. Every politician campaigns on these things, even Stephen Harper campaigned on these things while in Opposition.
3) Pick Your Team
Be it scandals or low quality city services,
epitomized by iced in roads and brown water,
Sam Katz is vulnerable.

Image Source: "Winnipegger sunited against
crappy roads and conditions
In order for a progressive agenda to be realized, we need to elect progressive people to municipal government. To do that, we need to know the background of each candidate, and if applicable, the candidate’s voting record while on council. The Winnipeg Citizen’s Coalition released a report card during the last municipal election grading each councillor on particular issues, and assigned each a letter grade. Unfortunately, if you lived in a ward whose councillor did not pass or where your incumbent councillor was not running again, this guide was no use to you. A strategy like this needs to be well researched, and provide information about each candidate (record of community service, statements to the media, platform items, etc), and ideally endorse candidates, so that voters have an idea of which candidates will do what.
4 Early Bird Gets The Worm
Even though the official campaign period begins in May, whomever progressives back for Mayor needs to be chosen well in advance. This allows time to build the networks and connections that are needed to overcome the disadvantage of being a challenger. Brandon Mayor Shari Decter-Hirst announced her intention to run about one year ahead of the 2010 election. Whoever steps forward to challenge Sam Katz will need at least that much time, given that Winnipeg is that much larger and more challenging for someone without built-in name recognition.
Progressives in Winnipeg face an uphill road to 2014, but it is a challenge that can be met.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Buck stops with PM, unless I'm PM

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Vandal jumps off board EPC

Saint Boniface Councillor Dan Vandal has jumped
off the Sammy boat by quitting EPC.

Image Source:  Marine Insight
March of this year I asked James Hope Howard if "civic centre-leftists like Brian Mayes and Dan Vandal [were] destroying themselves by joining aboard the failed Katz administration" while conservatives like Paula Havixbeck were jumping off the Sammy boat. James Hope Howard's ever hopeful answer provided a hilarious piece of postmodern Winnipeg municipal political fan fiction.

It seems that centre-left councillor Dan Vandal realizes just disastrous his link to Sam Katz is. Yesterday, Vandal quit the rightwing fake populist's Executive Policy Committee (EPC).

Who knew exactly what about exactly which scandals in the Katz admin is still up in the air. Following a dubious land swap deal with Shindico - a firm with links to the mayor -, Katz buddy Phil Sheegl quit.

Our mayor never paid much attention to what a conflicting and unholy relationship business interests could have with City Hall. Sam Katz opposed bans on corporate and union donations to city council campaigns because that'd hurt "right of centre" councillors.

Apparently, mayor Katz was unaware of the conflict of interest getting paid by private interests could have on city councillors.

The mayor also stood against P3 Accountability - i.e. safeguards to ensured we, the public, don't get screwed over by private business interests.

Councillor Dan Vandal (left) with Mayor
Katz (right).

Image Source
Obtained from Winnipeg Free Press
The enormous blind spot of our country club Conservative mayor has finally come home to roast. Even folks fooled thrice by Katz, like the Winnipeg Sun or Charles Adler, are abandoning the fake populist's ship.

Vandal, however, came late to the Sammy boat. As Glen Murray's Deputy Mayor and a contender for .
mayoralty in 2004, Vandal started off as a critic of Katz. Nevertheless, the Saint Boniface councillor was appointed to the Mayor's EPC in 2010

As an EPC councillor, Vandal (along with fellow centre-leftist Brian Mayes) has voted for the reckless and unsustainable development of Ridgewood South. This continued with subsequent votes, including the most recent Ridgewood South precinct plan vote where centre-right councillor Paula Havixbeck voted no to this costly 'burb.

In the run up and aftermath of announcing his run for the Federal Liberals in Saint Boniface Vandal has distanced himself from the Katz mayoralty. He introduced a (successful) motion to compensate 'Peggers whose laundry was damaged by brown water - which the civic government initially said it would not do. The Saint Boniface councillor has also introduced a successful motion to legally review the audit of the land swap scheme.

All motions serve to highlight his status as a reformer and opponent of "business as usual" on Sam Katz. Quitting the mayor's inner circle serves to further wash his hands of the boondoggles at City Hall.

Nevertheless, one wonders if this'll be enough to disassociate him from the toxic smell that is the public trust burning Sammy boat.

Monday, 28 October 2013

New Manitoba Liberal Leader

Manitoba Liberal Leader Rana

Image Source: Manitoba Liberals
Well, it's a new era in the Manitoba Liberal Party. For the first time since 1998, the Party has a new leader in lawyer Rana Bokhari.

Rana Bokhari wins MB Liberals

It's been a sad few decades for the Manitoba Liberals, as their support's been eaten up left and right. Only the socially liberal upper middle class riding of River Heights sent a Liberal to Broadway last election. This is a long way down from forming the Official Opposition of Manitoba with 20 seats and 35.5% of the popular vote in the 1988 provincial election.

The Manitoba Liberal decline continued under Paul Edwards and Ginny Hasselfield - a leader who's era was so strife filled that two of the few members of the Party caucus left. The election of Jon Gerard as party leader did not stop the Party's ongoing decline (despite throwing everything - including the kitchen sink - at Dipper governments throughout his tenure). The Liberals were witnessing the tide of history turning against them, with little any individual leader could do to stem their significant defeats.

Jon Gerrard announced that he would step down as party leader after the 2011 provincial election. This presented a chance for new blood to enter the party and the Liberals ran an actually competitive leadership race, unlike the coronations seen so often in the Manitoba CONs.

Bokhari is a younger leader, a first generation Canadian who grew up in the rural southern Manitoban community of Anola, and former president of the Manitoba Law Students Association. She claims to not just be running for the "Winnipeg Liberal Party" and wants to reach out to rural Manitoba. How she'll make inroads into either the ultraConservative rural south or the solidly New Democratic rural North remains to be seen, but perhaps some Interlake ridings will be up for grabs if disaffected New Democrats can't stomach Pallister.

Right now is, indeed, the best time in decades to be a Manitoba Liberal. Manitobans hate the PST hike, with most (rightly or wrongly) blaming it on "poor fiscal management". With 20% popular support, including strong performance in southern Winnipeg, and 10% of 2011 NDP voters up for grabs, the Liberals have much room for growth.

The Manitoba CONs choose a man with 1950s social attitudes, the Liberals chose a dynamic, young individual as leader. If NDP support remains low amid the heat of the 2016 election campaign and Pallister continues fixating on trivialities, the Libs might just make some breakthroughs in seat count.