Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Leadership Questionnaire

In an effort to do something remotely relevant with this blog of mine, I am conducting a leadership questionnaire. It's like an interview or debate of sorts, for the Liberal leadership candidates.

I have created a list of six basic questions, which will be sent out to all of the leadership teams/candidates. Everyone receives the same questions. The responses will be posted on my blog as they are received back, unedited (OK, if a spelling error should get through, I'd correct it... if I catch it). I'll probably wait to post until I have received back at least a few responses.

They will not be critiqued by myself. Comments on my blog are moderated, so I will only allow relevant and respectful commentary. I will not include any comments from known or suspected blogging Tories. I just don't think they should have any input into our party's leadership race. (I do not allow anonymous comments either). All responses from candidates or their teams will be posted.

I'd be interested to hear what other bloggers think, of the idea, or of the questions themselves.

The Questions:

1. Why do you think the Liberal party is in the position it is now, having lost a majority, and then a minority government?

2. How do you envision being able to help bring Canadians back to the Liberal party, and in doing so giving it a greater grassroots support base?

3. What is your greatest strength as a leader? What would your leadership style be? (i.e., in dealing with the press)

4. What are your thoughts or ideas on how the federal government should address regionalism in Canada? (i.e., Western alienation, Quebec Separatism)

5. What do you think Canada’s ideal role is in the international community?

6. Anything you’d like to add?

Aw, crap. Part III

I don't think that these kinds of allegations amount to slander or libel. Where evidence suggests there may have been wrongdoing, then they should be investigated and dealt with, one way or another.

I hope that if he is guilty he will salvage at least a modicum of respectability by owning up to any wrongdoing, dropping out of the party leadership race and resigning his seat. It will be ugly if he decides to go down swinging, and it wouldn't help the party one bit.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's Official (and has Paul Martin's signature on it)

My card arrived last week. I'm a member in good standing of the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario). It was the first thing I had heard from my riding association since I had called to follow up on my membership application. Reading the news letter that came with it gave me a better perspective on things.

It’s funny, but since January, I’ve spoken with a few other people who felt like the party was slow to respond to them, whether it was their on-line membership application, or their desire to participate in the AGM.

Yeah, I’ve been a little impatient myself, although I wouldn’t go so far as to say I felt “disenfranchised” (as someone else has suggested). Instead, I was wondering why the lack of urgency? What was taking so long? This is the age of email. I had applied on-line, so why didn’t I hear back from anyone in the next couple weeks?

Thinking about it now, I imagine that things progressed just about as fast as they could be expected, but like much of the email/blackberry driven society I’ve become conditioned to expect results/responses immediately. As a suggestion, someone might want to have the site send back an automated email to people who sign-up online, letting them know that the process can take 8-12 weeks, and then maybe direct them to their riding’s website, etc. Maybe direct them to Liblogs to while they're at it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

On Renewal II

So, my last post was about how I felt Andrew Coyne, biased or not, made a good point in his column; namely, asking the question: Why should Canadians trust the Liberal party again?

Now, being a new member of the party I know my place on the totem pole, and I’m sensible enough to appreciate why that is. I’m not so naive as to think that I should step in off the street and start dictating how things are going to be, but I am also going to be one of the people out canvassing door to door come the next election, and like the last election, I’m going to come face to face with people who will be asking the very question that Andrew Coyne stated in his column.

What are we going to say?

It’s hardly self-flagellation for the party to engage in this discussion; one commenters opinion was that facing this issue was more akin to the party buying the b.s. that the Conservatives are selling, and by doing so turning against itself. But the more I think about this, the more I feel that it’s quite the opposite. It is about facing the truth, and that is as important as the leadership race itself.

Of course we can’t let this issue divide the party, any more than we can let the leadership race cause the kind of fractionalization that occurred in the last leadership struggle.

But we can’t just sit on our hands either. The party is, and has to be strong enough to be able to withstand the kind of conflict that goes with a leadership race. There will be debates, and there will be disagreement, and then when the smoke has cleared, the dust has settled and a new leader is chosen, we should be able to come together.

Likewise, the public has to see that the new leadership and the party in general have done the hard work, and have had the courage to own up to past mistakes, and take action.

When I was going on about the party adopting a code of conduct (unaware as I was that one apparently already exists), I was suggesting that there has to be a concrete demonstration that the party is ethically sound, and will not tolerate corruption or waste. Yes, it’s obvious that the overwhelming majority of the party is not corrupt, or in favour of wasting taxpayers money. Then came Sheila Fraser’s revelation that there was some “cooking of the books” when it came to the costs of the gun registry; fortunately, we get to participate in the process of looking into this, but should an investigation be necessary? We don’t already know who was involved or responsible? Maybe someone should be stepping up and taking one for the team, or maybe falling on their sword?

That might seem harsh, but the point I’m trying to make is that there have to be consequences. There has to be action, because if nothing is done, then how can we say anything is different? If nothing changes, then nothing changes.

Otherwise, when the Liberal party defends the registry, as we should (and this could also be a lingering issue during the next election), what will that remind the average taxpayer?

By not addressing these mistakes, it’s the same as handing the Conservative party the ammunition to fire at us during the next election. We have to remember that Canadians didn’t overwhelmingly support the Conservative party, instead, they protested against the corruption of the sponsorship scandal, and by extension Liberal party, and there’s a difference there. We have to give those voters a reason to believe that there have been changes.

I really think this is the big task for the party. Many policy positions are, or will become evident, but they won’t make a difference if the average Canadian voter isn’t confident in the integrity of the Liberal party.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Aw, crap. Part II

The worst part about this column by Andrew Coyne is that he has a point.
So what are we going to do about it? I wonder what our code of conduct says or prescribes?
The leadership candidates would do well to address this issue.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Taking a Stand

I remember hearing some of these statistics showing the usefulness of the gun registry for the first time back in early January, and thinking to myself why aren't we letting more people know about this?
"The merits of the registry, the positive aspects of the program, have never really been properly told to the citizens of this country, and as a result I think there are more critics than supporters," said Chief La Barge, who also heads York Regional Police.  Greg McArthur, Globe and Mail, May 16/06
I think this is a good issue to take a stand on.


Monday, May 15, 2006

The View From the Fence

While I'm interested in reading most of the posting that's going on about the Liberal leadership race, I'm less inclined to post on it myself. I don't think I can bring nearly as much to the analysis of the candidates as some of the more adroit bloggers that have already posted extensively on the subject.

One thing I have to say is that I'm finding it pretty difficult to actually choose one of the candidates to support, mainly because choosing one means not choosing some of the others. My own perspective, fwiw, is that it's a pretty good quality slate, even if it is a large group.

One of the criticisms that I've heard is that there are too many candidates, and as a result, it's hard for them to be able to equally participate in a debate that offers much in the way of substantive policy and vision. This may be true, but it seems to me that it could be better to have too many, at least initially, in order to give a good range to compare and choose from, and has allowed for the opportunity for dark horses to emerge.

What a great party. Only the Liberal party could boast of having candidates who were formerly of the NDP and Conservative parties; some may not consider this a positive point, but I see it as a real strength. You can't get any more big tent than that. Canadians may still be a little mistrustful, but it's still early yet, and sooner or later, they're going to realize which party is really best at representing the broadest range of people and their interests.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Aw, crap.

The worst thing about this poll is that it's likely quite reliable. I wasn't expecting things to be much better, although I'll admit I was hoping they were.

Sue me? No thanks.

Can the Conservatives, in the role of the Federal government, really sue the Liberal Party?

I'm guessing no, but I could be wrong. My reasoning is that while a portion of the party did unfortunately benefit from the activities of the sponsorship scandal, it wasn't the whole party. It would seem to me that certain individuals, like those who have stood trial or are in the process of being tried, or companies which were directly implicated are the reasonable targets for any civil action aimed at recovering funds from the scandal.

But can the government use my tax dollars to sue the party which I have recently joined to try and confiscate any funds which I have recently donated? Can someone who wasn't a member of the party at the time of the scandal be held accountable? Should Liberal party members in ridings which had nothing to do with the scandal be made to pay back the funds? I don't think so (but I'd appreciate hearing any informed legal opinions on this matter).

I'm as disgusted by the whole sponsorship scandal as much as anyone, maybe more so; I'll be happy to see anyone who can rightfully be held accountable punished, but that anyone shouldn't include me.

Monday, May 08, 2006

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Michael Ignatieff - Blogger Chat

I was running late getting into Toronto, making my way to the Sheraton Centre for the blogger chat with Michael Ignatieff. Not sure what to expect, and being new to this aspect of party politics, I was a little nervous.

The first familiar face I would actually see would be Bob Rae when he entered the elevator I was taking up to the 43rd floor. I think I surprised him in greeting him, but he shook my outstretched hand and I awkwardly mentioned that I was also a new member to the party (now I can't believe I said that).

Reaching the floor with the Club Lounge, I looked around for any sign of where I should be going; a woman from the Ignatieff campaign guided me to the group, where introductions were already underway. It was a smaller group than I expected, and I found myself wondering who were which bloggers. Admittedly, I was again a little star stuck as I shook hands with Mr. Ignatieff.

We all pulled our chairs around in an informal group. Tempted to ask if we could have a brief round of introductions, I thought otherwise having been one of the last to arrive.

Mr. Ignatieff started things off, opening the floor by asking what he could do for us. At first, he seemed relaxed, maybe a little aloof, and I wondered if he was wary, or had any reservations meeting with us.

Not having brought a tape recorder, I can only roughly paraphrase the conversation, which focused mostly on the role of bloggers and blogging in the political process. I wasn't prepared for the medium being the topic, but it was still interesting.

The first question to Michael* was on how he saw the role of the bloggosphere and bloggers; he has an appreciation of the alacrity of the blogging process, and related how it had initially taken him a little by surprise when he originally mused on entering the leadership race at an event, and found it had become national news soon after. It's definitely speeding up the process of circulating information, with both the obvious positive and negative sides.

I know he's mentioned++ how the leadership race isn't so much a battle with the other candidates as it is with Stephen Harper, so I asked if he was concerned about the possibility of the blogger endorsements leading to overly heated or negative attacks; in short, he's not, as he trusts the market for news and information will not really support any criticism that offers little more than invective.

The discussion turned to the new website and blog for the Michael Ignatieff campaign, and when he spoke about the information that he's gleaned from posts people have left that he can use for policy building (on the environment), I got a sense of the appreciation he has for the internet as a tool for sharing information.

Shoshana, who had joined us late, along with another gentleman who's name I didn't get, pressed "Dr. Ignatieff" on the fact that he doesn't post to his blog too often, comparing his efforts with those of Garth Turner. I have to say, Shoshana, you are somewhat confrontational, and it can be a little off-putting. Do we really need to know what a candidate has eaten for breakfast, or if they've had their shoes re-soled recently (he has; they're black leather, and spiffy)? I don't think so, and I don't think most Canadian's really feel they need that level of connectedness with their leaders, but just that's my opinion. Ignatieff made it clear that his schedule doesn't really allow for frequent, or on-going conversation in his blogs comments section, and if he can't have a decent exchange of communication with the people commenting on the blogsite, then he'd rather avoid any insubstantial or overly brief responses.

Before I knew it, the meeting was over. It was only half an hour, and it flew by. Thanking us for our time, Michael excused himself. I got a chance to speak with some of the Ignatieff campaign team briefly, before Shoshana decided to get in their grills again. I chatted a bit with another blogger, Bob the Red, on the way out.

Overall, an interesting experience for me; I appreciated getting a first hand opportunity to meet and speak with a leadership candidate. Thanks for the invite Brad.

*Update: A BCer in Toronto, Jeff, asked the first question. Here's his more detailed recollection.

++Oops. My wife has suggested I may have mis-attributed a statement by another candidate; sorry if that's the case, however, I seem to gather Mr. Ignatieff feels the same way with regard to party unity.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Conservative Concept of Fairness

What I find most annoying about the Harper regime's policies, such as their childcare plan, is the blatant attempt to bribe me.

Take childcare for example; my wife and I don't need the extra $1200.00 (before tax). We have a spot, and we can pay for our own childcare. No, it's not easy, but we're well aware that we are in a better position than many Canadians.

The point about the government helping provide spaces is that they should be helping families who need it.

Instead, the Harper government feels that if they are going to help anyone, then they have to provide the same help to everyone, whether they need it or not.

If you look at the Conservative budget, and their platform, you see more of the same idea. Whether it's a GST cut, which really benefits those who have the most to spend on Goods and Services, or the benefit for childrens involvement in sports and physical activities.

All I can do sometimes is shake my head and wonder. The next election is going to be a litmus test of sorts, where we'll get a better idea of what Canadians think is fair.

Did anyone else know this?

The Liberal Party already has a code of conduct, which was adopted in 2005.

A slightly modified version of it can be found in the "Rules Governing Expenses" for leadership candidates (I can't find this doc myself, but I'm sure those who need it can).

Thanks to Steven MacKinnon for letting me know.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Code of Conduct

A while ago, I wrote about the idea of implementing a code of conduct for the Liberal party, in much the same way that companies have been implementing them in the last few years to demonstrate that they are good corporate citizens, and will not tolerate any improper conduct.

The more I think about it, the more I think it's a good idea for the party, and worth taking a closer look at. Politicians as a rule tend not to rate to highly in the publics estimation, and that perception is probably not going to be altered for the better anytime soon; however, the Liberal party has an opportunity to take a step, a "confidence building measure" if you will.

Is this really necessary? Well, yes and no.... Most corporations that have moved to implement such codes weren't experiencing anywhere near the kind of corruption that brought down Enron; however, when they looked closely at some of the practices that were commonly accepted as being part of doing business, they found 'grey areas' that were not covered by law or even internal policy, and realized that things had to change, even if just to be safe.

For example, one 'grey area' that has changed in many companies has to do with people in charge of purchasing decisions that no longer receive the kind of perks they once may have, like free samples/products for their personal use, or tickets to sporting events; or, if these kinds of incentives are still being shared, then they are being distributed within the corporations in a more open and fair process. The point is that people in those positions that used to benefit from them weren't necessarily doing anything wrong, because that's how things used to operate.

The corporate world have since realized though that by not having a policy in place to prevent abuse, then such 'grey areas' could lead to claims of impropriety, if not outright abuse of position. To add insult to injury, when abuses would occur, were caught, and then brought to light, they do extra damage to the image and morale of the organization. An insidious corollary, a code of secrecy could appear as the safer way to deal with misdeeds that are caught, if only to protect the group, but this magnifies the scope of the crime to include the larger organization; by trying to protect the organization, they are made complicit.

Obviously,the policy can't necessarily prevent any wrongdoing, but what it does do is protect the organization and the other innocent members from being associated in a negative manner.

The code of conduct would provide a clear and explicit penalty and process for handling any such activity that is caught. No allegations or cover-up, or protecting the guilty (or if there is an attempt at cover-up, it becomes a punishable offence as well).

Yes, it may sound harsh, or be perceived as a bit of a 'hair-shirting' exercise, but it isn't. The key is that all members of the organization have the responsibility to read, understand and accept the code; after that point, there is no excuse and there is no doubt as to what is expected, allowed or tolerated, period.

In the last couple years, the other parties have had gleefully tarred the Liberal party as "corrupt," and it's a refrain that the Conservatives won't let go of anytime soon because it works for them. The Liberal party has to start framing the publics perception of the party in positive terms again, and that means actively and concretely dispelling any notions that there is any level of impropriety in the party.

It hasn't helped that certain phrases and miscues have slipped out and become entrenched in the public consciousness; "entitled to my entitlements" and "beer and popcorn" are the two that stand out the most. Along with the Sponsorship scandal, they have become nationally known negative terms that are associated with the party.

Putting in place a code of conduct in order to build a "Culture of Integrity" would be a good start to reversing that trend.


To all the people out there who are taking the time to pay attention to what's happening in the world, and then raising the issue when they see somthing awry.
Like, for example my friend Bill, who is paying attention to goings-on over at the UN as they try to hammer out a Broadcasting Treaty.
I'm busy wondering when the next SES poll will come out, or letting people know about Beerhunter.ca , but Bill has his eye on more important things.
Keep up the good work.