And in Nova Scotia news…

The Chronicle Herald is reporting this hour,

STELLARTON — A letter at the centre of the dismissal of the former Stellarton police chief alleges Pictou County RCMP officers engaged in sex parties that included drug use, infidelity and improper use of weapons.

All of this happened under the watch of Ross Landry, who was a staff sergeant in the area at the time. Landry is now Nova Scotia’s justice minister.

My Nova Scotia PC friends are suggesting that Landry, now the NDP government’s Justice Minister in Nova Scotia, will likely have to step aside (at least temporarily) as a police tribunal investigates the story in the coming weeks.

The NDP government will likely protest this call.

Landry won his seat by the closest margin in the last provincial election: by 102 votes.

The NDP: don’t let them tell you it can’t be done

From December 2nd, 2009,

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, honesty is the best policy. That applies to the HST, even though the Conservatives are blaming the provinces. With the help of the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois, the Conservatives are going to raise taxes on heating fuel, which will hurt people in northern Ontario and elsewhere.

How, in good conscience, can those people vote to increase families’ heating costs next winter? How can they do that?

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, getting a lecture from the NDP with respect to taxes is quite something. I never thought I would live this long to hear it.

This is the government that brought forward major tax reductions for Canadian families, major tax reductions for small businesses, major tax reductions with respect to the GST. Every single time the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance tried to cut taxes, they faced the wholehearted opposition of the NDP and leader of the NDP who wanted to keep the GST at 7%. The only problem the NDP has with the HST is that it is not 2% higher.

April 6th, 2010:

NDP hikes HST to 15%

…effective July 1st, [Nova Scotia] will raise the HST on most other things by two points to 15 percent, the highest combined sales tax in the country.

April 6th-Present day

“…”
— Jack Layton

Nova Scotia NDP fined for illegal donations

During the last provincial election in Nova Scotia, I wrote a story about a large transfer of money to the NDP on a single day,

The provincial NDP has been caught in a funding scandal during this election regarding a massive influx of money on a single day of the campaign. The hive-like organization of the NDP spreads down to its union affiliates as well. On April 9th, a resolution at the Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades Council was passed to reimburse member unions for their individual $5,000 donations to the NDP. Essentially, this packed the contributions into a $50,000 envelope and this was passed onto NDP party HQ. The scandal here is that what was essentially a $50,000 donation was made to look like 10 individual $5,000 donations (including one from the organizing union). The NDP received the cheques on the week of May 5th. Prior to this, they received a phone call to let them know these donations were coming.

The scandal broke on May 30th when a reporter got wind of what happened and called the NDP party office asking them about the donations. The party claimed to be unaware of the cheques. Two days later, the party felt it necessary to call a press conference to declare that they would return $45,000 worth of donations.

On June 5th, 2009, the CBC published a report on its website about the NDP complaining about “defamatory” radio ads against that party during the campaign,

The NDP is demanding seven radio stations around Nova Scotia pull election advertisements produced for and paid by the Conservative Party of Nova Scotia.

The radio spots, which began running Friday, state the NDP has accepted “$45,000 in illegal campaign contributions from union bosses.”

In a letter sent to the radio stations Friday by Michael Coyle, a lawyer for the NDP, claims these statements are “false, scandalous and seriously defamatory.”

“In truth, the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party is not, and has never been accused of, or investigated for, any ‘illegal donations,'” writes Coyle.

Today, Elections Nova Scotia put out the following press release notifying the public that NSNDP has been fined the maximum amount under the relevant elections Act for the transgression.

New Senators

The new senators:


Quebec

Claude Carignan

Judith Siedman

Jacques Demers

Ontario

Doug Finley

Linda Frum

New Brunswick

Carolyn Stewart-Olsen

Manitoba

Don Plett

Nova Scotia

Kelvin Ogilvie

Nunavut

Dennis Patterson

Senate appointments tomorrow

I’m hearing that the Prime Minister will be naming nine new senators tomorrow by 2:00pm.

Here are the party veterans that I’m hearing are sure bets
Manitoba – Don Plett
New Brunswick – Carolyn Stewart-Olson
Ontario – Doug Finley
Nova Scotia – Brooke Taylor
Quebec – Jacques Demers

In the running:
Ontario: Bob Runciman, David Braley
Quebec: Judith Siedman
Nunavut: Dennis Patterson

I’m still digging on this. If you’ve got any tips (anonymity guaranteed) please send them via email or bb pin.

UPDATE: Appointments will be announced between 1 and 2pm tomorrow
UPDATE: Brooke Taylor is a surer bet than Macdonald for NS from what I hear. Finley upgraded to a sure bet now that I’ve heard from more than a few sources.
UPDATE: Brooke Taylor sure bet for NS
UPDATE: Added David Braley to the shortlist of potential senators from Ontario
UPDATE: hearing rumour that the PM will only appoint 8 of 9 tomorrow, but cannot guess why
UPDATE: Senate seat from Nunavut open. Hearing that the PM met with appointee last week while on the northern tour
UPDATE: Added Dennis Patterson and Paul Okalik from Nunavut. Bet on Patterson.

NDP convention — Saturday summary

Today, the NDP got down to business and discussed policy, policy and more policy. In fact, the difference with Liberal policy conventions and NDP policy conventions, is that at NDP policy conventions, policy is discussed.

I started following the day with interest as delegates debated building an oil pipeline from Alberta to Eastern Canada. The advantages — according to the delegates — would be that such a move would create hundreds if not thousands of jobs and it would maintain sovereignty over Canadian energy distribution as distribution channels now run through the US. The clear disadvantage? That would be a nod to the reality that Canadians consume oil and export oil from the oil sands — a sticky point to a party that ran on a moratorium on future oil sands development in the previous election. In the face of recognizing economic realities and lofty dreams, the party faithful sided with the latter firmly saying “no” to our own oil production and transport.

From there, delegates went onto women in “peace-building” (is this the same as Conservative “peacemaking” — or closer to Liberal “peacekeeping”?) The resolution carried as no controversy could be found in a feel good resolution for everyone. Then foreign aid came up and Libby Davies took the microphone to describe the conditions of the people in the Gaza strip after she had returned from… the West Bank. No mention of Israel, though one delegate found the Canada-Israel Committee’s presence at the conference “interesting”. There was some other drama as some delegates debated the highly generalized language of the foreign aid resolution which described aid to “countries”. One delegate moved to discuss aid on a case-by-case bilateral basis. There were also some procedural debates. One French-language resolution was discussed which may well have been lifted by the Bloc Quebecois mandating the use of the French-language by all Quebeckers. Further, a policy resolution on EI firmed up the party’s position closer to the 360 hour mark similarly being proposed by the Liberals.

Leo Gerard was one of the showcase speakers of the day. The president of the United Steelworkers certainly gave the best crowd-pleasing speech of the day but appealed to the worst elements of partisanship as he, at different times, called both Harper and Ignatieff “the prince of darkness” and called ideological opponents in the US healthcare debate “redneck jerkoffs”. Frankly, if the NDP is to ever be taken seriously, this sort of language is unacceptable from a showcase speaker during the convention of a mainstream political party. In fact, to emphasize the fact that the NDP is still not taken seriously, there will be little to no critical coverage of this language in the MSM tomorrow, as there would have been screaming headlines if this had occurred at a Conservative or Liberal convention.

Next, the results of the party executive elections were announced. Peggy Nash replaces Anne McGrath as president of the NDP while Rebecca Blaikie was elected treasurer. A motion was made to destroy recycle the ballots. Nash served as an MP for the NDP in the 39th parliament and then most recently as an adviser to the CAW. Blaikie is daughter of the former NDP MP and Dean of the House of Commons Bill Blaikie.

Next, Marshall Ganz — a Harvard lecturer and labour organizer — spoke to the crowd about his experience as a community organizer and as a campaign organizer for the Obama campaign. Ganz gave the most informative speech of day for assembled delegates. Though Ganz spoke about the “politics of hope”, the NDP would be better served going negative against Michael Ignatieff as the Liberal leader has left them a lot of room to maneuver on the centre-left. To stake out their place there, the NDP will have to define Ignatieff more aggressively than recent Conservative efforts did with the now famous Just Visiting ads. Particularly notable moments of culture shock were apparent from Obama speakers in their use of biblical parables to illustrate “teachable moments” at this convention. The party of prairie preacher Tommy Douglas has taken a long road eschewing social justice drawn from religious inclination to one taken from a more atheistic worldview and Obama campaigners seemed to be out-of-place making religious analogies to a largely secular party.

After Ganz, the party went back to policy debate and discussed a state-focused nuclear disarmament resolution in a “hey, remember the 80s/something happened on 9/11?” moment. As conflict has moved from cold-war area politics to one with asymmetrical non-state actors post 9/11, the NDP still seems bent on having the same “world without (US) nukes” policy discussion instead of addressing the real and present danger of global terrorism. Another striking moment came during the international policy discussion portion when NDP MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) suggested that Tamil actions in blocking traffic in Ottawa and occupying a highway in Toronto were legitimate methods for Tamils to get the attention of the Canadian government.

The keynote of the day was Betsy Myers, the COO for the Obama campaign. According to her agency website, Myers banks between $15-20k per speaking arrangement. Myers talk was relatively light and uninspiring for delegates, but involved a Q&A session hosted by NDP national campaign manager Brian Topp. During Myers speech to party faithful, union delegates were notably absent from the speech. While union organizers make up an important part of the NDP field operation, they may have been upset by the party brass importing some expensive American talent to tell delegates about the shiniest new campaign techniques.


Union delegates absent from Myers speech and Q&A

After the Myers segment, Dippers poured out to hospitality events including a Keith’s brewery tour hosted by the NDP Nova Scotia Provincial caucus, that despite just forming government in that province, only managed to bring out five MLAs to the reception. Another big event of the evening was the Charlie Angus-sponsored Canadian Private Copying Collective gathering at the Delta. Of the federal caucus, only Angus and Bruce Hyer were present (a reader writes to inform that Claude Gravelle, Carol Hughes, Malcom Allen, Glen Thibault, Brian Masse, John Rafferty, Andrea Horwath, Ken Neuman, Leo Gerrard, and Andrew Cash also showed up during the event). They were joined by Canadian artists Eva Avila of Idol fame, Chris Cummings, Teresa Ennis, and Marie Denise Pelletier. The other free event was the NDP “tweetup” on Argyle street attended by Paul Dewar, Niki Ashton, Megan Leslie and Brian Masse. The VIPs, not at the brewery tour, copyright party or tweetup, must have been gathered at the Delta for a closed-door $300 “winner’s circle” meet-and-greet with Betsy Myers where MP Olivia Chow reported that Myers said that the NDP “[gives] voice to the voiceless”. Indeed.

Despite an initial setback after the party banned one of their leading activists, the eNDProhibition movement is making its voice heard at the NDP convention and is reportedly being more shrewd than the members of the Socialist caucus who are bluntly and clumsily pushing to nationalize everything. Dana Larsen, the NDP candidate who was fired during the last campaign for being pro-drug, was similarly barred from attending the NDP convention. The advocates for marijuana are looking for any small victory for their cause such as having the resolution on psychoactive substances debated on the floor. The eNDProhibition activists were seen lobbying GLBT delegates making the argument that they too once faced discrimination within their own party (Tommy Douglas’ views on homosexuality).


Some eNDProhibition buttons seen at the convention

Tomorrow will be an interesting day as the convention closes and the NDP debates their convention-headlining moment: the possible rebranding of the party. Observers will note a blue colour has washed over the NDP website and former party communications guru Ian Capstick noted to me that orange is simply terrible on camera. During the keynote, Myers spoke against a blue backdrop complete with “Jack Layton” in large letters overtop a barely visible “NDP-NPD” sitting next to large Obama logo. The party of Layton seems dedicated to embracing the success of the new American president who is for everything from the death penalty, to nukes, to civil unions over same-sex marriage, to two-tier healthcare, to increased troop presence in Afghanistan, to free trade with Colombia, to keeping Omar Khadr locked up. Layton may be embracing the blue colour in a nod to the US Democrats who turned red states into blue states for Obama in the 2008 election. The NDP slogan “it can be done” is somewhat similar to “yes we can” but seems to be more “convincing a disbeliever” in tone rather than a collective and affirmative call to action.

If Marshall Ganz could have given one lesson to delegates it would have been that without a personal story from each and every person about why they believe in your candidate enough to work on your team, the slickest political package and most sophisticated social media operation will never win a campaign. You can fly in the top-paid political talent, but without a strong field team you’ll be spending more time convincing people that “it can be done” rather than everyone believing that “yes, we can”. This weekend, the NDP may yet illustrate that it will fail at its own expensive imported lesson.

UDPATE: The NDP will not change its name. But not for a lack of trying. The delegates were only given an hour to debate an omnibus resolution on party constitution matters. No time was left to discuss the name change. As James Moore says, “everything old is new again”.

NDP convention day 1

A faithful correspondent sends the following from the field.

This ain’t your hippie father’s NDP

The New Democratic Party is meeting in Halifax this weekend for their federal convention where they will discuss policy, hand out literature and hit up Pizza Corner at 3am.

The NDP is looking to, among other things, rebrand itself as a more palatable alternative to the Liberal Party on the left.  It’s going to be a tough slog for the dippers (we’ll still be able to call them that if they rename themselves as the Democratic Party) and many observers note that this will be Jack’s last chance if he doesn’t deliver tangible gains during the next election. They’ve been given a gift in that the Liberals have the most right-wing leader in recent memory, so some re-configuration may be on order along with seafood this weekend. However, are they selling out in order to make their policies easier for Canadians to swallow?

First, let’s look at Jack Layton’s obvious flip-flop on sweaters.

Jack’s party has been particularly guarded on releasing draft policy resolutions from his party’s EDAs this time around.  This is likely a result of what happened last time the NDP had a convention.  But, it allows us to ask if there’s some platform sweater stuffing going on here.

Next, we can’t help but notice that the NDP is leaving those hard-working families™ behind and showing a strong nod towards those that sit around boardroom tables rather than kitchen tables as the rich fat cats in Jack’s party can pay $300 for a chance to sit in the “winner’s circle” and attend an “exclusive” (read: exclusionary) reception with Betsy Myers, the COO for Obama for America.  According to her agency, Betsy’s fee is between $15-$20k per gig.  Let’s hope that enough NDP “suits” fill the Bluenose room at the Delta (my, oh my) to pay her fee.  It is unknown why the NDP is cozying up to an American political party that is currently pushing for two-tier healthcare in the US, and one that supports increasing troops in Afghanistan.  For those outside of the “winner’s circle” (read: drum circle) there’s an alternative event for $10 where they’re be some traditional Maritime music.

If you’re thinking about lighting up some of the green stuff while you listen to another rendition of Barrett’s Privateers at the Lower Deck, think again.  Word from the convention this weekend is that the NDP has barred Dana Larsen from attending Dipperfest this year.  Some will remember that Larsen was the NDP pro-drug candidate that was dumped during the last election.

But more seriously, is the NDP shifting the the centre-left to fill a perceived vacuum left there by Michael Ignatieff? Remember, if Ignatieff supported Bush, it might as well be safe to embrace for the NDP to embrace Obama (as a majority of Canadians still do).

Nova Scotia NDP scandal and who knew what when?

Nova Scotia is electing a government next week and you may know that the Nova Scotia NDP has a competitive shot at forming the next government in that province. For those that have been following the race, you’ll know that the Nova Scotia NDP has caused a bit of scandal that is starting to peak as we ramp up to e-day on Tuesday.

The NDP is a funny animal; the party is a national organization unlike other parties. The NDP in each province is the same organization as the NDP federally. This is different from the Conservative party, for example, which is exclusively a federal party. Yes, there are provincial sister organizations, but not branches. This could theoretically allow the NDP the potential to play a bit of a shell game when it comes to finances.

The provincial NDP has been caught in a funding scandal during this election regarding a massive influx of money on a single day of the campaign. The hive-like organization of the NDP spreads down to its union affiliates as well. On April 9th, a resolution at the Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades Council was passed to reimburse member unions for their individual $5,000 donations to the NDP. Essentially, this packed the contributions into a $50,000 envelope and this was passed onto NDP party HQ. The scandal here is that what was essentially a $50,000 donation was made to look like 10 individual $5,000 donations (including one from the organizing union). The NDP received the cheques on the week of May 5th. Prior to this, they received a phone call to let them know these donations were coming.

The scandal broke on May 30th when a reporter got wind of what happened and called the NDP party office asking them about the donations. The party claimed to be unaware of the cheques. Two days later, the party felt it necessary to call a press conference to declare that they would return $45,000 worth of donations.

On June 3rd, Ed Wark, the NDP’s official agent, said he knew a sizable amount was coming from the trades council and nine unions after a phone conversation with union president Cordell Cole. This is a direct contradiction of Darrell Dexter’s story on Monday that the NDP just found out about these donations on the weekend. It is simply unbelievable that the NDP received $50,000 in one day after a single phone call from a union president and they claim that no one raised any questions. The Chief Elections Officer said “It appears that the contributions by the individual trade unions were improper because it was not money belonging to the trade unions – that it was being reimbursed by the umbrella organization to the individual unions,”

The next day, PC Premier Macdonald puts pressure on candidates to release full lists of donors. NDP leader Dexter agrees but refused to return the $5,000 from the Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades Council. On the 5th, Dexter releases a two and a half page document of donations to the NDP. This apparent demonstration of accountability came a full five days after the scandal broke. The document itself shows nine union contribution (remember that nine other union contributions were returned). This means that the NDP stood to net double in their union contributions column if this scandal had not been brought to light. Further, the list of donations does not declare individual donors.

The scandal for the man who could become the next premier of Nova Scotia on Tuesday is that he and his party feigned ignorance of the massive $50,000 influx of money. In fact, on the day they were unaware of the union donations, they were aware that this was their best day for donations. Also, consider that a union rep called ahead to let the NDP know they’d be receiving the $50,000 envelope. How can Dexter or the NDP claim ignorance of the donations until an outside source was able to ask them tough questions regarding election financing?