Yesterday may have felt like a normal June 30 to most Edmontonians, but unbeknownst to most citizens (but not all ) Official Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff was in the Provincial Capital City taking part in an open Town Hall meeting at the Santa Maria Goretti Community Centre .
The event was large in numbers, but the 600 person crowd felt subdued as they seemed more curious to hear what this Ignatieff fellow had to say, rather than to simply cheer the Liberal Party battle cry. The room was filled with party faithful and also attracted a good mix of interested non-partisans who were likely also just as curious to hear what Ignatieff had to say. Of course, the meeting attracted a number local political names such as former Liberal MP Anne McLellan , Liberal MLAs David Swann, Laurie Blakeman, and Hugh MacDonald, and City Councillor Ben Henderson, as well as Senators Tommy Banks, Grant Mitchell, and Claudette Tardif. Alex Abboud has a good review of the question and answer session, so I won’t duplicate his blog post.
While I don’t believe that anyone in the building (including Ignatieff) was under the impression that his presence alone would lead to Liberal Party gains in the next election, there did seem to be a positive energy that wasn’t evident during Stephane Dion‘s short tenure as Liberal leader. Of the Liberal activists I spoke to last night, they carried a renewed optimism, especially for the chances of winning over voters in ridings like Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, and Edmonton-Strathcona.
Following Ignatieff’s time on stage, I had a good conversation with local lawyer Mary MacDonald, who is seeking the Liberal nomination in Edmonton-Centre. MacDonald, who’s previous electoral experience included placing a scant 58-votes behind NDP candidate Raj Pannu in 1997, was positive about her chances and was realistic about the hard work ahead of her. Over the course of the evening, a number of Liberals approached me to inquire if I was supporting former candidate Jim Wachowich, who according to Ken Chapman is no longer seeking the nod. Edmonton-Centre Liberals are expected to choose their candidate at a meeting in September 2009 (I have been told the date may be moved sooner).
From a practical politics perspective, the Liberals would be smart to put the Conservatives on the defensive in key urban ridings in western Canada. In Alberta, this would include focusing on ridings like Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-East, Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, Edmonton-Strathcona, Calgary-Centre, and Calgary-Centre North in order to force the Conservatives to focus funds and resources on ridings where they have become accustomed to taking voters for granted. After a dismal few elections in Alberta, the Liberals need to also focus on rebuilding their province-wide support, which fell from 22% in June 2004 to 11% in October 2008.
I may be labeled a crazy wing-nut traitor for not believing that the Liberal Party of Canada is secretly hatching a conspiracy to steal Alberta’s God-given oil (or building a Death Star behind the Moon), but I actually get the feeling that Ignatieff is bothered that his party has burned so many political bridges in western Canada. That said, the largely Ontario-based Liberal Caucus hasn’t done much to distill perceptions that it is biased against the politics and economics of western Canada.
My cynical views of Canadian federal politics may remain in place, and while I not yet convinced Michael Ignatieff would be a great Prime Minister for Canadians, I am convinced that he would probably be a decent and open-minded Prime Minister for Canadians. I remain open-minded and curious.
( Photo credit to Alex Abboud )
“Frankly,” he said, “I think it’s condescending to westerners that being a so-called intellectual is some big liability. People out here are as devoted to the life of the mind, and the life of culture, as anybody else in the country. So I don’t think that’s going to fly. It’s just stupid.
Ignatieff is in Edmonton for the next two days and will be speaking at a Town Hall meeting at the Santa Maria Goretti Community Centre tonight at 6:50pm. I’m planning on checking out what the serene professor has to say, so post your questions below and I may try and ask one if I get the chance.
Ottawa political staffer Ryan Hastman defeated Linda Blade and Cathay Wagantall to claim the Conservative candidacy in Edmonton-Strathcona. Hastman will face NDP MP Linda Duncan in the next federal election.
Also visiting Edmonton-Strathcona from Ottawa will be federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who will spend the morning of Canada Day in the 20th annual Silly Summer Parade down Whyte Avenue. Last week, Vancouver-Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry joined federal Liberal activists in Edmonton’s Pride Parade.
Across the river in Edmonton-Centre, Lewis Cardinal will announce his announce his intentions to seek the NDP nomination this week (h/t @alexabboud). Cardinal was narrowly defeated (by 184 votes) in a tight race that saw Ward 4 Councillors Jane Batty and Ben Henderson elected in the 2007 Municipal Election. In the 2008 Federal Election, Edmonton-Centre NDP candidate Donna Martyn placed third with 15% of the total vote behind Conservative MP Laurie Hawn and Liberal Jim Wachowich.
How’s this for an economic stimulus package? The members-only private Royal Glenora Club will be receiving $1,000,000 in taxpayers dollars from the federal government. Annual membership fees range from $ 2,236.00 for singles aged 30-64 to $4,065 for families. While MP Laurie Hawn defended the announcement, claiming that it “will ensure that this 50-year-old facility can continue to thrive….” it is not known whether he and his wife are active members of the Club (which would cost $2,403.00 annually for couples aged 64 and over).
– What is it about the current government and concealing information until after elections? In 2004, it was access to flight logs, and in 2008, it appears that the governing PCs didn’t release information about charges that had been laid against Suncor in relation to the dumping of undertreated waste water into the Athabasca River. Meanwhile, on the topic of Oilsands, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have published a response to a recent National Geographic feature on Canada’s Oilsands.
– While the Council of Alberta University Students met with over 50 MLAs at the Alberta Legislature this week to advocate on Post-Secondary Education issues, the Alberta College & Technical Institute Student Executive Council practiced a much less effective method of advocacy.
– Former Cabinet Minister and Medicine Hat Conservative MP Monte Solberg is once again blogging. After writing a popular blog during his time in the opposition benches, Solberg stopped blogging when he became a Cabinet Minister in 2006. After serving 15 years in the House of Commons, Solberg did not seek re-election in the 2008 election. Solberg also writes a regular column for SunMedia (h/t @BreakenNews).
– Following Michael Ignatieff‘s visit to Alberta last month, two Liberal MPs will be visiting the province. Beaches-East York MP Maria Minna will be speaking at a Calgary Liberal fundraiser on March 20, and Willowdale MP Martha Hall Findlay will be speaking at an International Women’s Day Brunch in Edmonton on March 22.
– Preston Manning is in today’s Globe & Mail calling for a sustainable energy security strategy for North America.
– Obama2Canada.org has been launched to raise awareness of the environmentally damaging effects of the oil sands before President Barack Obama‘s 5 hour Ottawa visit with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on February 19.
– In a recent poll, new Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was viewed more positively than negatively in every province except Alberta across all age and gender groups.
– More evidence of the continued implosion of the CanWest media empire. I was sad to hear that the Calgary Herald will be letting go many of its freelance writers, including political writer Les Brost.
– There’s some interesting ongoing debate on the state of Liberal politics in Alberta in one of my previous posts.
Imagine that, Stephen Harper, Canada’s 10th Liberal Prime Minister?
After taking a glance at the 2009 Federal Budget released this afternoon, I’ve come to the conclusion that if didn’t know much about Canadian politics, I wouldn’t have a hard time believing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
And though it was presented by Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the increased spending, tax-cuts, and bailout funding for declining industries made it easy to imagine that this budget could have been presented by past Liberal Finance Ministers John Manley or Ralph Goodale.
Partisan gender-bending aside, it’s not difficult to understand why the NDP and Bloc Quebecois are opposing the budget, but it may be more difficult for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to effectively oppose it.
A weakness Ignatieff may be able to grab onto is the funding of municipal infrastructure development, of which many projects are set up on a 1/3, 1/3, and 1/3 funding arrangement between the Federal, Provincial, and Municipal governments. This will pose a challenge to many municipalities who cannot afford the 1/3 (or are located in provinces unwilling or unable to provide their 1/3 of the funding). This afternoon on CBC Newsworld, Flaherty suggested that in certain cases, the Federal Government could provide up to 1/2 of the funding in order to fill the gap.
A positive solution to this problem would be for the Feds to provide a loan financing or transfer program for municipalities in these situations (I’m not competely sure that one does’t already exist).
Here is a short list of some points in Budget 2009 that caught my eye:
– $12 billion infrastructure building program (including new and accelerated funds)
– $225 million over the next 3 years for broadband to unserved communities. According to University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist, Australia has committed $4.7 billion to a similar project.
– $28.6 million over the next two years to the Canada New Media Fund, and $14.3 million annually thereafter.
– $30 million to community newspapers and magazines (not known how much will go to CanWest)
– National Securities Regulator: The Conservative Government will be moving forward with willing provinces (8 provinces, minus Alberta and Quebec) in creating a new National Securities Regulator.
– Up to $2 billion to support deferred maintenance and repair projects at Post-Secondary Institutions
Some Alberta Related:
– $130 million for twinning of Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park
– $37.6 million for Mackenzie Valley Gas Project (environmental assessments, coordination, and Aboriginal consultations).
– $81 million over the next two years for program management and additional assessments of federal contaminated sites, which may include Edmonton International Airport.
– Provincial-Federal Cost-sharing priority project: Telus World of Science in Calgary.
– No funding for the twinning of Highway 63 to Fort McMurray.
– Budget Speech: Economy (29), businesses (27), recession (17), tax relief (15), stimulate (12), hope (1) (h/t the Hook)
– Mike Soron has created an entertaining wordmap of the budget speech.
(h/t Scott Ross)
The Federal Liberals are chosing their leader this weekend. Though I was mysteriously left off the Edmonton Strathcona ballot during the delegate selection meetings, I had decided months ago that I would sit out this Liberal leadership convention.
Though I support Gerard Kennedy for the Federal Liberal leadership, finances and interest level had a lot to do with my lack of Montreal presence this December weekend. I think Kennedy would do well as leader. When I met Kennedy this summer I wasn’t overly impressed by the speech he delivered, but when I was able to talk with him one-on-one I was very impressed at the types of ideas we talked about. He is a fresh face for the Federal Liberals with actual elected political experience in government and in opposition. Something that will benefit the Liberals greatly in the next election.
Of the other candidates, I don’t mind Stephane Dion.
I find the Bob Rae phenomenon to be the most interesting though. He has a train car worth of political luggage, but continued to surprise me with high level quality supporters such as Ralph Goodale. So, I’m puzzled. He’s intellegent and articulate, but what would happen if he won? Would the Liberals implode and lose all their seats in Ontario? Probably not. The unpopularity of Mike Harris‘ Government is fresher in the mind of Ontarians and former Harris-era Ministers Jim Flaherty and John Baird cruised to Federal victory in January 2006. Could Rae do the same?
This said, I think there is potential for it to be a while before I again become actively involved with the Federal Liberals.
Hopefully whoever is chosen as Leader will do their best to bring the Liberal Party of Canada back to Canadians. Hopefully they can pose a compeditive challenge to the Conservative minority in what will most likely be a Spring 2007 election.