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More Lessons for Progressives

Late last year I wrote a piece here on the lessons that Progressives could and should learn from the events of 2019 and the elections that took place. A big part of that piece for me came from some folks on the further left constantly saying, “Oh if we only had a Jeremy Corbyn in Canada” or “We need a Bernie Sanders in Canada”. Heck recently someone even put that idea down in a piece that I believe totally misses the mark, mostly because Bernie Sanders would not be very radical in the Canadian context at all. Most of what he’s calling for are things we already have and have come from policies from both the NDP and eventually the Liberals when they got popular enough. But yeah, I’m sure that point won’t go over well.

Regardless, many on the far left in Canada point to these examples as the way forward and the way that the NDP should be. Forget the fact that neither of them won a major election and that Corbyn just had the worst Labour defeat in decades, that doesn’t matter we keep getting told. And yes, while right now Bernie Sanders is riding high and will most likely win in New Hampshire today, I wouldn’t count my chickens until after Super Tuesday at the earliest. My point is that there is a long way from now to the Democratic Convention this summer and while Bernie is a front runner right now, he’s not running away from the field and if the more moderate wing of the Democrats ever coalesce around someone, Bernie’s got big problems. But hey, that’s a fun debate for another day and time.

In the meantime, I feel that it’s always important to look at empirical data and information that can tell us a lot about what happened in past campaigns. That helps us learn from what happened before, in order not to repeat mistakes from the past. It was in that spirit that I came across an interesting piece from British pollster and Conservative Lord Ashcroft. And while yes, he’s a Tory and put the usual caveats on everything, he did focus groups and polling of Labour voters, those who left Labour in this campaign and why. The results are interesting and some good lessons to learn from:

While Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are whistling past the graveyard and refusing to place any blame at their own feet, Ashcroft’s findings show something quite different. I pulled three graphs from the report and put them above because they show just how starkly Labour was out to lunch and just how disconnected they’ve become from those who have voted for them for so long. While Brexit played a role in this campaign, it’s clear from reading this that it wasn’t the determining factor. You can see from those who left Labour to vote elsewhere large numbers point to Corbyn himself as a big problem, pointed to Labour “no longer really representing its traditional voters” and to “Labour’s election promises not being believable”.

In other polling information you see it again and again, a theme being repeated; I didn’t want Corbyn, Labour no longer represents me and I don’t believe they could deliver on their promises. But it’s the last graph there that really drove home the point about how much of a factor Brexit actually was when it came to those who abandoned Labour. 52% of those who left Labour this time said they would have done it anyway, Brexit or no Brexit. Only 18% said they would have voted another way if Brexit wasn’t on the table. Think about that for a moment; of all the voters Labour lost, less than 20% said they wouldn’t have switched if Brexit hadn’t been a feature of this race. That’s it. More than half of those past Labour voters were gone, regardless of Brexit. That lays at the feet of Corbyn and his team and they need to answer for it.

There is a lot to pick over in that report and a lot of data that’s very interesting, but for me the big takeaway from this is that Labour under Corbyn’s leadership had their fingers nowhere near the pulse of their supporters and stood no chance of winning with Corbyn as leader. Brexit was just the coup de grace, not the main cause. And folks, for those pining for a “Canadian Corbyn”, that’s exactly where that kind of leader would lead the NDP; to historic losses and ruin.

The fact is that Labour under Corbyn has lost its bearings and lost its connection with those who they have traditionally supported. As many of those former Labour supporters said (people who said they could support Labour again it should be noted) is that they feel like they are being spoken at and down to, not being represented. The NDP needs to be cautious to not go down that path and in some cases, some could say that already happened. Repeating that example fully and forcefully here in Canada would not deliver the utopia that some claim it will because Canadians are skeptical of people offering the moon and stars and their ability to deliver on it. I would hope that people would look at the content of what that report says and the results of those panels, and not the name of the author. There is a big lesson to be taken from that report and the only question that remains is “Will we learn from it?” or “Will we ignore the fact because they might prove us wrong?”. Time will tell which will happen, but it can’t be said that no one isn’t trying to get it right.


Talking John Baird Leadership Rumors, CoronaVirus & Campaigning for the UN Security Council with Kristy Cameron

Today I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now”, along with Katlyn Harrison and Shane MacKenzie on the “Political Heat” panel. We talked about rumors about John Baird seeking the Conservative Leadership, CoronaVirus, it’s effect on our economy & the energy sector and the Prime Minister’s campaign to get Canada a seat on the United Nations Security Council. You can listen to the audio below starting at the 18:00 minute mark. Enjoy!

Cultural Appropriation Through Electoral Loophole?

As many people who read this site know, or have come to know over time, I am Métis and proudly so. In the political sphere that can mean a few things but one of those things is having to be very protective of our nation, who we are and defend against those who make erroneous claims to be us. Sadly, we have way too many examples of groups trying to make those claims Quebec going eastward, and its something that never seems to end.

But these things can go to another level when outside groups or people with legitimacy give these fraudulent individuals and groups legitimacy by association. During the Fall election, I highlighted the case of one particularly egregious example, when the Green Party had a faux-Métis candidate running for them in Quebec, despite their words of support for the Métis Nation. That candidate was never booted, and it started a conversation in the media about this, where I had a few choice words to the Globe and Mail about it. As I said at the time, by the Greens allowing that person to run for them it gave them the appearance of legitimacy “because now they’re attached to [these parties] and they have said, ‘We approve of this person, they’re okay by us’”. That is a serious problem for political parties to face, one which the Greens completely ducked that time and essentially lent their name to a group trying to undermine the Métis Nation itself.

That was just one example and sadly it’s not the only one. We see groups, parties, some elected officials and alike who are well meaning but simply don’t know enough about the issue and in the end, give these faux-Métis groups legitimacy, even if only for a moment. But today Radio-Canada is reporting on a story that might actually take this to a whole different level, one which I found to be extremely disturbing on many levels:

Okay, this story is very disturbing to me on a number of levels. First, the idea that someone who whose claims to be Indigenous seem to shift, change or seemingly disappear is the one trying to create this party, supposedly an Indigenous political party. This is not just cultural appropriate, this is an attempt to do so to a political end, which is just ugly. How in the Hell that Elections Quebec would allow this to go this far is disturbing to say the least, but it also exposes just who lax and loose the rules are in Quebec when it comes to forming an official political party.

Secondly and more disturbing to me is the concept they are applying to determine membership or more specifically, who they consider to be Indigenous. They seem to have created a whole new definition for this, saying that they consider Indigenous to be anyone who has “Aboriginal Fibre”. What in the Hell does that mean to them? According to the Radio-Canada report, that includes “les indiens non-inscrits, les sang-mêlé oubliés, les Métis non reconnus et les Québécois et Québécoises de souche qui revendiquent cette identité.” Let that wash over you for a moment; for them to be Indigenous, you can be anything from Non-status Indians, faux-Métis or heck, you can even be “Québécois de souche” who wants to claim to be Indigenous. That’s so offense and so far beyond the pale that it made me sick to my stomach to read. The fact that Elections Quebec would allow a group basically proposing the idea of erasing Indigenous identity to form a political party is beyond the pale and just wrong on so many levels.

You can see why Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, has spoken out so strongly about this, calling this group out for trying to legitimize itself by trying to association themselves with the AFNQL without their consent. Also Picard rightly points out that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen groups do this in Quebec and also in Eastern Canada, trying to claim Indigenous ancestry out of the blue to hunt or to try to get access to funds and programs for Indigenous peoples.

But I would say this is a different level of disturbing to me. This group is trying to use the electoral system and the legitimacy that can be conferred on it by Elections Quebec, a formal government body, by having their application to be an official party in Quebec approved, to advance their claims. That is beyond the pale, disgusting and wrong in so many ways, but so far it seems that Elections Quebec is oblivious to how they are being used.

I would hope that the other parties in Quebec or the government at the very least would step up to stomp this out in its tracks, but don’t count me as hopeful on that. My bigger worry is that other groups in other regions will take this same approach, trying to use the electoral system to legitimize their illegitimate claims. The idea that a political party would allow themselves to be used like this was bad enough, but that the government body who’s responsible for running fair elections in a province might do the same is just too far. Elections Quebec needs to step in here and stop this group in its tracks because if they allow this and let this group try to appropriate the culture and nation of another for their gain, it will set an ugly precedence that shouldn’t happen.

Punching Down

When it comes to electoral campaigns, regardless the level, there are many tools, resources and techniques that are at the disposal of a candidate. When used well, they can give a campaign a big boost or a much-needed edge that gets the closer to victory. But when used poorly, they can create the kinds of self-inflicted wounds that the candidate never recovers from, in some cases for the of their careers.

Advertising is one of those tools, one that’s constantly gone through evolution. As new technologies have been developed, campaigns find new ways to use them to advertise with and increase their reach. Social media has been another quantum leap when it comes to that, potentially reaching millions with a great ad through paid ads and viral share. But just as in the past there could be big pay off for a good ad, a bad ad can spread just as far and do even more damage. This weekend we’re seeing a great example of this from one Presidential campaign in the United States, with an ad that strikes all the wrong tones:

As a political observer, it’s hard not to watch the clown car crash taking place in the Democratic Primaries this week. Between the debacle of Iowa that keeps going and the lack lustre performance of certain campaigns, it hasn’t been their high point. And all of that happening at a time when the stakes probably couldn’t be any higher for the future of their country and allies. In an environment like this, you’d think that a candidate like a former Vice-President to an amazingly popular President would be a shoo-in to win and represent his party. Yet over the past few months we’ve seen Joe Biden make gaff after gaff and continue to slide.

After an embarrassing fourth place finish in Iowa, he simply can’t perform that bad in New Hampshire next week. Observers keeps saying that he should win in South Carolina but at this point each day his campaign keeps taking on more water and it’s making lots of people honestly wonder if he’ll be too damaged by the time that primary comes. Biden’s recent fall has coincided with the rise of Bernie Sanders and former Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, with Mayor Pete looking more and more like he’s taking over Biden’s position in this race. And with Team Biden not wanting to go after Sanders, it makes sense that they would target Buttigieg in some way.

That seems to be the thought process with this ad, trying to contrast Biden’s experience with Buttigieg’s, but wow, does it ever miss the mark. For starters, this ad is simply shrill, condescending and very petty. In fact that word, “petty”, kept ringing in my mind while watching this. Yes, it’s clear that Biden, having been in the US Senate for like 30 years then Vice-President for two terms will have done much more than Buttigieg. Folks, Biden has literally been in elected politics longer than Mayor Pete has been alive. So it always went without saying that he had done more as an elected politician, and I doubt that Buttigieg would argue with that.

But instead of putting out an ad touting his own experiences and raising those up, he takes cheap shots at Buttigieg and punches down at him and every opportunity, showing a complete disrespect for the work that Mayors and municipal officials do across this country. In a race where you need to convince a lot of elected officials from that level to back and endorse you, I doubt that it helps to woo them your way when you sneer down your nose at their work, their dedication and call it somehow “less than”.

But you know, it that was all of it, it would be bad enough. What makes it even worse is that this ad makes Biden come off as very arrogant, that everything he’s done is amazing and the rest of them are crap. It plays to all the worst characteristics you hear sometimes about old time politicians and highlights them with a sharpie. It also plays into the hands of a candidate like Buttigieg, who is running on offering some kind of generational change.

And worst of all for Biden, it’s the kind of ad that reeks of craven desperation. Some online have been saying that “Biden dropped a nuclear bomb” on Mayor Pete, but I would argue something different. Out of blind desperation and need to try to change the course of this race, Biden tried to bomb Buttigieg. But instead of nuking Mayor Pete’s campaign, I would argue that Biden just Old Yellered his own campaign. Instead of rising himself above this former Mayor from a small town, the former two-term ice President of the United States punched down at the first openly-gay candidate to win a primary (a tie, but bare with me) who just also happens to be a veteran. He brought himself right down from that lofty perch by showing that even someone as experienced as him can be as petty as the worst of them. That ad would give Donald Trump a run for his money when it comes to petty and you know if Biden had done that ad about him, it would have even backfired there too. It was just that bad.

I highly doubt that Biden and his team feel that way because they feel like they just put this “little Midwestern pipsqueak” in his place, but that right there should be a warning sign for them. Ask the Conservatives how mocking attack ads that make their own team feel so good, you know, the ones with Trudeau shirtless ad such, helped them win. Oh wait, that’s right, they didn’t. And when they tried it again in 2019, they lost again. And now their leadership candidates are doing it too. So much feeling good with so many losses. That is exactly where Joe Biden’s team is heading, turning what should have been a great chance to become President into one of the worst Presidential campaigns in American history. We’ll see over the next couple of months if that stays true, but I can’t help but feel that in November we’ll look back on that ad and see it as one of the moments when Joe Biden was finished.

#Cdnpolicast – China Relations, Online Privacy & Quebec Secularism

The newest episode of “Cdnpolicast” is now up. In this episode Alyson Fair, Geoff Turner, Neil Brodie and I talk about Canada’s Ambassador to China before the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relationsion, the Privacy Watchdog takes Facebook to Court & members of Quebec’s political class slam Ottawa over funding for Bill 21 challenge. You can download and subscribe to “#Cdnpolicast” everywhere you can get your finest podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify. You can also listen below. Enjoy!