The (Right) News Rundown
- After much speculation and many cryptic tweets Stephen Mandel has entered the race to become Alberta Party leader.
- Stephen Mandel is the former mayor of Edmonton and was in office from October 2004 through October 2013 and he was also the last Progressive Conservative Health Minister.
- But first some background on the Alberta Party.
- The Alberta Party is a party that was founded in 1985 but gained little traction throughout the years leading up to the 2015 election.
- In 2010 the Alberta Party re-oriented itself as a centrist political option aiming to be fiscally responsible yet socially progressive.
- In 2015 the Alberta Party elected its first MLA, Greg Clark.
- The Alberta Party has played a relatively minor role since the 2015 election with Greg Clark being its lone MLA for the longest time.
- On October 29, 2017 Karen McPherson crossed the floor to join the Alberta Party caucus. On January 9, 2018 Rick Fraser, former UCP MLA and former Progressive Conservative MLA crossed the floor to sit in the Alberta Party caucus.
- The Alberta Party leadership race has been relatively quiet so far, with only a few candidates showing interest.
- There are currently 4 candidates running, Jacob Huffman a University of Calgary student involved with the Alberta Liberals, Kara Levis a Calgary based energy lawyer, Rick Fraser Calgary South East MLA since 2012 who sat in Allison Redford's cabinet and later joined the UCP before leaving to join the Alberta Party, and of course former Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel and the last Progressive Conservative Health Minister.
- Stephen Mandel issued a series of cryptic tweets leading up to his declaration with various Alberta landmarks placed upside down. This as we found out singled that he views the province on the wrong track.
- This event is the largest political event in Alberta since Jason Kenney's election as leader of the United Conservative Party.
- This should have been the most talked about media story all week, it wasn't.
- Largely glossed over for a draft policy put out by a couple of United Conservative Party staffers that called for firstly the abolition of the carbon tax and secondly a return to Alberta's flat rate tax (topic for another show). Recall that the UCP's official policy convention will be this spring.
- The NDP were outraged at such a plan stating that it would only benefit the rich and would be reckless in a time of deficit, and the UCP agrees with this latter point.
- It's not even real policy yet but the NDP is on defence and the media is covering this defence.
- The decision for Stephen Mandel to enter the Alberta Party leadership race is huge and has the potential to change the trajectory of that party, one would think we would see more coverage.
- We're also seeing the downsides of the lack of coverage on Stephen Mandel joining the race.
- While Stephen Mandel was mayor he oversaw the construction of Edmonton's 23rd avenue interchange on the south side, it initially had a completion date of 2006 but was pushed back all the way to 2011 and also came in over budget.
- Finally while running for what claims to be a fiscally responsible party, Stephen Mandel as mayor (and his council) also negotiated a horrible deal with Daryl Katz to build the new Rogers Place hockey arena downtown.
- The project was initially budgeted at roughly $480m but expanded to $604.5m. $279m came from the City of Edmonton via the Community Revitalization Levy (a pool of resources set aside for revitalizing poorer areas of the city), $125m from a ticket surcharge, $137m from lease revenue at the arena, $23.68m from the Edmonton Arena Corporation (Daryl Katz), and $25m from other levels of government.
- This means that Daryl Katz's group paid roughly $162m for the arena while he can still profit off of it.
- This is horrible fiscal oversight of Mandel and his council for basically having the taxpayers fund a building that will allow Daryl Katz to continue to profit.
- The arena deal has effectively caused the shutdown and massive downsizing of Northland's, a group in Edmonton that has existed since 1879.
- There has been zero deep analysis of Mandel with respect to the Alberta Party leadership race and his past fiscal management successes or failures.
- What's more is that at Mandel's launch event Katherine O'Neill was spotted, she's the last president of the Progressive Conservative Party.
- With Rick Fraser joining the race who was in Allison Redford's cabinet, there's going to be a lot of influence from the former Progressive Conservative Party.
- When the Alberta Party rebranded in 2010 there was a huge emphasis on doing politics differently and being almost apolitical in a way, but with this much former Progressive Conservative influence, it almost feels like it's becoming Progressive Conservatives circa 2018.
- Also missed was the NDP mocking Stephen Mandel's tweets and his cancellation of the Calgary Cancer centre during his time as PC health minister.
- The NDP removed the tweets as many found them insensitive as Mandel's daughter recently passed away due to lymphoma.
- It seems unlikely that former BC NDP and BC Liberals would work together, ever, but it appears that at least some of them are united against the NDP's attempts to push electoral reform through. Back on Episodes 37 and 40 I discussed the referendum on proportional representation and how it was going to work. Basically, it's a straight 50%+1 vote, with no turnout threshold. I've detailed how proportional representation would actually concentrate power in the Lower Mainland and weaken the representation of all other areas in BC. And now it seems that unlikely allies have banded together to fight the referendum.
- Bill Tieleman, a former B.C. NDP strategist; Suzanne Anton, a former B.C. Liberal MLA and former attorney general; and Bob Plecas, a former deputy minister under Social Credit and NDP in the 80s and 90s announced Wednesday they would join together to form a group, the No B.C. Proportional Representation Society, to campaign for the "no" side in the upcoming referendum on switching B.C.'s voting system.
- Tieleman, Anton and Plecas want their group to become the official proponent for the "no" side of the issue, which, according to the Electoral Reform Referendum Act 2018, could entitle them to public funds to make their case.
- All three said in a statement that a switch to proportional representation would empower party bosses and make government less accountable, and much like I said in earlier episodes, they feel it could hurt rural voters and allow extremist parties to rise. "It's a bad system. It's a system that really doesn't work in many, many places it's been used," Tieleman said.
- Anton said it's telling the federal Liberals abandoned a plan to adopt proportional representation. "Right now we've got an easy system. It's very easy to understand," she said. "What works well is a stable parliamentary democracy that we have in Canada, that we have in British Columbia. ... There is no reason to mess with our electoral system."
- The most experienced leader of the no side is Tieleman. He played a leadership role in the successful “no” campaigns in the 2005 and 2009 referendums on the single transferable vote version of proportional representation, as well as the 2011 ballot-by-mail trouncing of the Harmonized Sales Tax.
- His record notwithstanding, Tieleman readily concedes this will be the toughest fight yet. The New Democrats have lowered the threshold for approval of the change and Premier John Horgan is personally making the case for reform. During the campaign last year, Horgan vowed to get citizens to embrace proportional representation, in the course of an interview where he expressed hopes of bringing “maybe even Bill Tieleman on side.” So it's clear that politics aside Tieleman is a strong voice in BC and that he is influential in getting results.
- Tieleman speaks for New Democrats who fret that abandonment of the current first past the post system (FPTP) means the NDP will never again form a majority government. For the times that the NDP have won majorities, if those same elections were under PR, they would have been defeated by a coalition of parties further to the center and center right.
- Among advocates for the switch, there seems to be a tacit assumption that proportional representation would all but guarantee another NDP-Green majority per the 2017 outcome. However, in most B.C. elections in modern times — including the three won outright by the NDP — the majority of votes were cast for parties on the centre-right of the political spectrum, not the centre-left.
- Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun notes that it's funny how supporters of reform proport the new system to be better at getting parties to work together, yet much to their dismay, here is a coalition on the no side from all stripes that is working together to keep the current system.
- People notice when they have more money in their pockets.
- The 2015 election of Justin Trudeau focused primarily on improving the lives of the middle class and increasing the amount of money they had in their pockets.
- Recently according to the Fraser Institute, "81% of middle-class families in Canada are paying higher federal income taxes" now than they were under the previous conservative government.
- On average, according to the Fraser Institute, this amounts to an increase of roughly $840 more per year.
- While the government can say they lowered tax rates on people making between $45k and $91k a year, they eliminated a series of tax credits which account for most of this tax increase.
- The only income bracket where a majority of families or more are not paying higher income taxes are in the bracket of $1 to $51,598. That means that for family making more than $51,699, there's a good chance that more than half, in fact north of 65%, of these people, will be paying more taxes under the current tax plan.
- The all telling figure is that in the middle bracket between $77k and $107k 81% of those people will be paying higher taxes under the current plan.
- In the media, even after the election, we saw numerous montages of Trudeau using his favourite moniker, "the middle class", and highlighting how much better they will do under this plan.
- But we must ask the question, is paying on average $840 more in taxes, really doing better?
- While the "tax cut" was delivered early on in the mandate, we need to look ahead at what's coming.
- There's the carbon tax that the federal government will be requiring provinces to implement.
- There's also the increasing tax burden that municipalities put on families to fund their programs and services.
- So in reality, unless there's some undocumented tax cut on the horizon then tax rates in Canada will continue to increase under this government.
- This Fraser Institute report was telling and wasn't really talked about in many places aside from an opinion piece in the Toronto Sun.
- Any time people have more money in their pockets it's ultimately good for the economy and of course their quality of life.
The Firing Line
- Trudeau has begun 2018 with a series of town hall's across Canada. He's starting in the east working his way west.
- These town halls are largely unscripted and people can ask the Prime Minister whatever questions they want, without prior screening.
- The article here from the CBC starts off by explaining that politicians, "always earn extra credit by submitting themselves to the lion's den."
- So while the CBC article praises the Prime Minister it also indicates in its third paragraph that his answers "invalidate that perception, what with few of them being of any real substance."
- The CBC also admits that the end of 2017 was wobbly with Trudeau's horrible press conference on the report of ethics commissioner Mary Dawson's reports that he was in violation of four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act.
- The report also highlights the failed trip to China and Bill Morneau's ethical troubles.
- The CBC hopes that the town halls will "[dilute] the focus" and that even if he takes a beating, his critics will have to commend him for taking this medicine.
- This is seen as a net positive by the CBC because the opposition is still, "working out the kinks -- to put it generously."
- The article oddly highlights Andrew Scheer's policy on cutting funding from universities that don't stand up for freedom of speech due to his decision to remove Senator Lynn Beyak out of the Conservative caucus in the Senate.
- And let's not forget Jagmeet Singh, he's also faring worse in this piece, "having seemed to lose the early momentum that Scheer's team never really enjoyed"
- Jagmeet Singh's issues with answering question the Air India bombing and his "about-face" on his position regarding language requirements for judges.
- The upshot at the end of the day is that the "greenness of both party leaders will fade... but compared to Operation Trudeau -- which can end 2017 muddled with scandal, only to emerge with A+ shareable content of the Prime Minister disarming a heckler... Trudeau will keep embracing those bows and in the long run probably be better off for it."
- While we were expecting a review of the town hall's, we can actually see that this turned into a mass grilling of the opposition by the CBC.
Word of the Week
Narrative - a spoken or written account of connected events; a story: the hero of his modest narrative.
• the narrated part or parts of a literary work, as distinct from dialogue.
• the practice or art of telling stories: traditions of oral narrative.
• a representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values: the coalition's carefully constructed narrative about its sensitivity to recession victims.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Changing the Narrative
Teaser: Stephen Mandel is running for Alberta Party leadership, unlikely allies want to keep BC’s current political system, and many middle class Canadians are actually paying more in taxes. Meanwhile, Trudeau’s town halls allow the CBC to change the narrative.
Recorded Date: January 13, 2018
Release Date: January 14, 2018
Edit Notes: None