The Conservatives’ shameful motion

Late last week, the Conservatives made a motion in the House of Commons that was unworthy of the place. The motion was to "reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement.

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A Different Point of View....: Can Mulcair work a miracle and gain unlikely victory?

From the very start, the main issue in the federal election race has been as obvious as the beard on Tom Mulcair’s face, but it’s been largely ignored by mainstream media.

The big time journalists are rushing from the leaders’ pre-planned news conferences day after day, but the majority of voters have said in opinion polls that by far the biggest issue for them is to have either the NDP or Liberals emerge as the party that can soundly defeat Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

During the fourth week of the campaign, it looked like the NDP might be the chosen party. They were at 33.9 per cent in the polls. The Conservatives were at 28.4 per cent, and the Liberals 27.9.

It looked like the NDP might jump to, say, 36 or 38 per cent in the polls and become the party to stop Harper. But it didn’t happen. Instead, the NDP fell back a little.

The NDP might be suffering because of Mulcair’s misguided promise to balance the budget. This is not playing well with Canadians who question how the NDP is going to both balance the budget and pay for all the promises they’ve made. Meanwhile, many progressives who believe the government should borrow to stimulate the economy – as Trudeau promised to do – are upset with the NDP for adopting an overly-cautious position.

If you believe Monday’s opinion polls, the NDP was at 31 per cent, and the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 30 per cent.

This week the NDP faces two big hurdles. On Wednesday, Mulcair will release figures showing how the party would pay for its election promises. And on Thursday he will join the other two leaders in a televised debate on the economy. If Mulcair survives the attacks he will face during Thursday’s debate, the NDP should still be in the race.

Harper hopes ‘dirty tricks’ let him win

Some analysts have written off Harper – largely because they thought the Conservatives took a big hit during the frantic Syrian refugee acrimony. But in Monday’s Nanos Research poll, the Conservatives were back to 30 per cent.

As in past elections, Harper hopes to benefit from a couple of new “dirty tricks”:

  • When the Conservatives oversaw the rejigging of ridings and the addition of new seats for Parliament, they rigged the system in their favour. The Globe and Mail analysis of Elections Canada data shows that if everyone who voted in the 2011 election cast their ballots for the same political parties in 2015, the Conservatives would pick up 22 of the 30 seats that are being added in a riding redistribution. NDP would pick up six ridings and the Liberals two.
  • The big sleeper in the campaign that could mean victory for the Conservatives depends on whether hundreds-of-thousands of people who favour the NDP or the Liberals can manage to vote. According to the Council of Canadians, the so-called Fair Elections Act makes it more difficult for at least 770,000 people to vote. 

There are other factors favouring the Conservatives. A huge percentage of people who say they will vote Conservative do so. But a lot of people recorded in the polls as favouring the other parties end up not voting.

Secondly, the right wing reacted gleefully when the government announced a phoney surplus for last year of about $1-billion. That’s a surplus of $1-billion on a budget of $290-billion.They created the surplus out of thin air by grabbing funds from the unemployment insurance fund and other financial tricks.

Harper’s prayer is for the NDP and Liberals to stay tied in the polls so he can sneak back into power with just a few more seats than either of the two.

Will strategic voting work this time?

Conservative opponents believe they have a powerful weapon in their back pocket: strategic voting. Unions and public interest groups used strategic voting to help defeat Tim Hudac’s Progressive Conservatives in last year’s Ontario election and, including the work of small groups, there will be a much larger effort to unseat Harper.

But can the anti-Harper campaign really do the job? There are a few problems that must be overcome.

First of all, there are two anti-Harper camps. One group consists of strong NDP loyalists who dislike the Liberals just about as much or more than they hate the Conservatives. The other group is supporting either NDP or Liberal candidates in different ridings.

Given that just about everyone agrees that Harper is the Public Enemy Number One, the two camps should avoid feuding that could reduce the chances of defeating the Conservatives.

Strategic campaigning got off to a bad start when Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and an NDP loyalist, blasted Leadnow’s approach of electing either New Democrats or Liberals in 72 ridings where the Conservatives are believed to be vulnerable.

Unfortunately, Moist supports the NDP over the interests of the country: an analysis of the 72 target ridings shows that Leadnow will be supporting Liberals only in ridings where the NDP has no chance of winning.

Campaign truce urgently needed

The two sides need to have a truce concerning their campaigns. In fact, they should figure out where there are any strategic ridings where New Democrats oppose Liberals and decide how to resolve the issue. Given the importance of stopping Harper, perhaps they could support the same candidates in a handful of ridings.

More needs to be done. With only five weeks left in the campaign, there’s practically no cooperation among the more than a dozen large and small groups working to elect either New Democrats or Liberals. Some groups have the impression that the Elections Act prohibit them from co-operating, but this does not appear to be the case as the Act concerns itself only with advertising.

For the New Democrats, if Mulcair performs reasonably well and does not “out his foot in it”, strategic voting could bring the party a minority victory.

Groups need to co-operate to make sure that local polling is carried out in all ridings where Harper is vulnerable. Results must be shared and made public a few days before the advance polling dates, which run from October 9 to 12.

Groups also should co-operate to publish a list of the target ridings indicating which candidate has the best chance of defeating the Conservative. Just publishing information on their own websites will not be enough to inform the hundreds-of-thousands of potential voters.

If either, or both, of the NDP voting campaign and the strategic voting campaign are successful, the Harper government will fall on October 19. If the NDP wins, Mulcair has promised to launch a process to introduce proportional representation. PR could bring us the kind of democracy we deserve and, thankfully, the end of strategic voting.


Contact Nick Fillmore at
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A Different Point of View....: Strong voter registration campaign could mean the end for Harper

The primary objective of Stephen Harper’s absurdly-named Fair Elections Act  is to prevent hundreds-of-thousands of Canadians from voting for the NDP, Liberals, Greens, etc.

The Conservatives are, in effect, “cheating” the electoral process again, just as blatantly as in the past. They know that a large number of people – students, marginalized people and First Nations – will have a hard time voting because of the changes. And they know those people would not likely vote Conservative.

Even though the Conservatives are trailing in the polls, it’s much too soon to say they will lose the election. Harper’s gang of strategists and pollsters have masterminded their way to victory three times, overcoming tough odds each time.

But efforts to help people to register to vote are not as strong as they could be. There needs to be close co-operation among groups to make sure that as many people as possible – particularly people in some 70 ridings where the Conservatives are vulnerable – have the identification they need to vote.

Alexie Stephens is one of  Leadnow’s staff members
 working to defeat the Conservatives. 

The Council of Canadians contends that some 770,000 people may have a difficult time voting because of the changes to the Act. Included are 400,000 people who used the voter ID card in 2011 and believe that’s all they need this time; 250,000 people who will move during the election period; and 120,000 who used vouching in 2011.

Harper ‘scheme’ must be stopped

If many of those 770,000 people are unable to vote, the Conservatives could win a crucial number of closely contested seats. Vote splitting among New Democrats, Liberal and Greens – similar to what occurred in 2011 – could also result in another Harper government.

A second factor could prevent many people from voting. Voting was less complicated when Elections Canada enumerators went door-to-door registering voters and explaining where to vote, a process that was eliminated in 1997. Now voter information is compiled from tax records, which are less reliable.

“ It’s all part of voter suppression, making it as complicated as possible so people will just throw up their hands and stay home,” says Stephanie Sydiaha, a Saskatoon activist working on registering voters.

Public interest organizations are responding to the challenge, hoping to play a leading role in defeating the Conservatives.

Dozens of groups want to “knock off” the Conservatives, including well-staffed NGOs, the Council of Canadians, Leadnow, and Dogwood Initiative; unions UNIFOR, the Public Service Alliance of Canada , the Professional Institute of Public Servants of Canada, the Quebec Federation of Labour and others; First Nations groups in many ridings; and avaaz, the international lobby group.

Some groups are urging people to vote strategically for either the NDP or Liberals in as many as 70 ridings, while others are campaigning for just the NDP.

So far, only a few groups are running campaigns that encourage people to vote.

Fairly similar campaigns

The Council of Canadians and Leadnow’s ‘Vote Together’ are the main groups encouraging people to vote. Their campaigns are quite similar. People who visit their websites are asked to pledge that they will vote.  So far, the response has been limited.

Both groups are giving extra attention to young voters. The Council has hired high-profile activist Brigette DePape to run its campaign.

The Council and Leadnow are conducting door-to-door campaigns, talking with people and leaving information on what they need to do to vote. The Council has been working in 10 ridings and Leadnow 13. Both groups say they plan to conduct detailed work in more ridings.

Because the Act makes it more difficult for people to vote, groups should do more than just drop off literature and a voters’ guide.

Excellent project in Saskatoon

Interestingly, one small group is doing a more thorough job. In Saskatoon’s downtown generally low-income core, a group of about 15 volunteers have been trained to take people – many of whom have never voted before – through the entire process to get ready to cast their ballot.

The volunteers, equipped with laptop computers, printers and cell phones, go to locations in the city where people congregate. They show people the Elections Canada website and, if they’re not registered, they help them through the process. They make sure people have the right pieces of identification to make sure they will not be turned away at the polls.

“I started with one church I knew about that has a food market for core neighbour residents,” says Stephanie Sydiaha, who launched the volunteer campaign. “I called the Food Bank, they were very eager, so we go there one afternoon a week.”

“We’ve been going to a soup kitchen that feeds 1,000 people a day – yes, in booming Saskatoon, they feed 1,000 people a day,” says Sydiaha , a long-time activist. “These are people who are not reached by politicians, they don’t have TV, or computers, etc. But they want to vote, believe me.”

This kinds of hands-on facilitation should be used by other groups in many neighbourhoods.
Some 14-million-plus people are expected to want to vote. It’s difficult to say how many will not make it through Harper’s rabbit snare of a voting process. But if a million are stymied, it will have a significant impact on the outcome of the election.

I dread thinking of a situation where, two or three days before the election, the NDP is leading the Conservatives by, say, three points in opinion polls. But come the morning after the election, and Harper ends up with perhaps three more seats than the NDP because of his latest trickery.

Serious need for groups to get involved

There is still time – and a serious need – for more groups, particularly unions, to get involved in voter registration campaigning.

Groups involved in the registration campaign need to co-ordinate their efforts. The Canada Elections Act restricts groups (Third Parties) from colluding to provide more than the legal amount of advertising revenue in support of a candidate, but there’s nothing in the Act preventing groups from working together to help people to vote.

Even at this late date, the creation of a national co-ordinating committee could give the campaign the profile needed to warm people about the changes to the Act. There’s still time to publicize the issue and conduct fundraising through a series of national newspaper ads.

There’s plenty of work for individuals. People can contact the Council of Canadians, Leadnow’s Vote Together  or their union and volunteer to help with door-to-door voter registration.

Or, if you’d rather work in your neighbourhood on your own, that’s great too. Post voter information in community centres, churches, and grocery stores.

Voting guidelines and, if you want to, you can vote now. 

If the campaign works, it will be one of the main reasons why Canadians will wake up on October 20th to a new government.

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Contact Nick Fillmore at
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The Progressive Right: Canada’s Veterans Still Need Protection from Conservatives ( #cdnpoli )

Canada’s veterans rejoiced when Julian Fantino was finally booted from Veterans Affairs on January 5.
Mr. Fantino was replaced by Durham Conservative MP, Erin O’Toole. Ostensibly, a sound pick – a former RCAF officer.
Someone with such a background, you’d think would bring a sympathetic ear to what veterans need.
You would be forgiven if you had forgotten that O’Toole fully parroted Julian Fantino’s hard line stance against honouring veterans benefits at every turn – fully endorsing the government’s inaction in the care of Canada’s veterans.

You would argue that it was up to O’Toole to simply toe the party line and publicly support the previous minister.

You would hope his first act would have been to set a new course and a new direction for the troubled ministry.

Well, you’d be disappointed.

The new minister has decided not to listen to certain veterans advocacy groups – especially, it seems, if they do not follow the party line that everything is fine with Veterans Affairs.

Mike Blais, who helped launch Canadian Veterans Advocacy in 2011 to advocate for veterans and serving Canadian Forces members who did combat tours in Afghanistan and their families, told The Hill Times that Mr. O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) gave the bad news [that it is no longer a stakeholder adviser to the Veterans Affairs department] in a voicemail he left on Mr. Blais’ phone service Jan. 7. [Hill Times]

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


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