Under the Dome
with Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen
03/5/2015 9:57 AM
I participated in a Google + Hangout a few days ago to talk about the NDP leadership race.
If you have a few moments, please take a look.
The hashtag we're using for this weekend's NDP convention is #mbpoli
02/24/2015 4:10 PM
So how is the delegate system working for the NDP?
It seems not too well, but it's better than the alternative.
Heading into the March 8 leadership vote, the party's system for electing its leader, and Manitoba's premier, is anything but transparent.
Those of us watching from the sidelines see a system where the big unions, particularly the mighty Canadian Union of Public Employees, are able send 691 delegates to the convention. That's where up to a total of 2,271 delegates with either confirm Premier Greg Selinger as NDP leader or go down a different route, electing either Steve Ashton or Theresa Oswald as the party's leader to guide it into the next election.
What remains to be seen is if the unions will be able to fill all the delegate positions allotted to them, an allotment based on the size of their membership and affiliation with the party.
We could see a repeat of what happened during the last NDP leadership contest in 2009 when the Manitoba Federation of Labour "redistributed" about 90 unfilled union delegate spots to party members who did not belong to a union.
That hurt the NDP's credibility then and it could easily again if CUPE or the United Food and Commercial Workers can't find the bodies to fill out their delegate entitlements.
More concerning, in the lead-up to the leadership vote, is that each side is puffing up their constituency delegate support numbers in the hope of convincing any soft or undecided delegates that their particular candidacy has the momentum.
No one bets on a lame horse in a race, so the three candidates are doing their best to show delegates, even union and other special delegates like MLAs and party officials, that they are the horse to beat.
"Back me. I have the momentum. I am not the horse headed to the glue factory."
The problem is they each have different numbers.
Each side swears their numbers are accurate and point fingers at the other for monkeying with the counts. One explanation is that some delegates have been counted twice, meaning two camps claim the support of a single delegate.
This hurts the NDP's credibility, too. If the camps are counting people twice or worse, pulling numbers out of thin air, what else are they making up?
None of this is lost on Selinger.
He insists the current process, while complicated, is still democratic and the best way to involve members from across the party's spectrum in electing a leader.
But in the next breath he says it could be fixed.
"There's no question the process can be improved," Selinger says. "No question about it. Once we're through the process, it will be reviewed. People will have an ability to look at it. You will see resolutions at the convention, for example, that are asking people to look at the one-member, one-vote system as well. I think you're going to see some evolution on how these things are done based on the experiences we have."
Considered to be more democratic, one-member, one- vote would give each party member the right to cast a ballot for leader.
The provincial NDP, like other parties such as Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives, had a one-member, one-vote system to choose its leader until June 2007. That's when at convention it went back to a delegate system.
The move back to a delegate system was supported by many in Premier Gary Doer's government and the Manitoba Federation of Labour. The one-member, one-vote system was put in place after Doer became leader in 1988, but it was never used.
Supporters of a delegated leadership convention said it would give hardcore party activists the ability to choose the leader instead of last-minute members signed up by a candidate to sway the vote or hijack the party's agenda.
So which is better?
Under the one-member, one-vote system we wouldn't be able to watch this current leadership fight with such a ringside view, including a month of delegate selection meetings across the province. Instead many isolated party members would cast their ballots by phone or computer with little direct contact with leadership candidates.
Gone also would be that sense of urgency that we've seeing right now as each of the three candidates hustles for delegates. That hustling will continue right up until the last ballot is submitted.
The bonus for the NDP is that the delegate system also takes on a life of its own. It gathers together everyone in one convention hall making for a big media spectacle, something that's been building over the past few weeks with almost daily newspaper stories, TV reports or social media commentary.
It's not all good news, but it's still free advertising for the NDP. That has not been lost on Opposition Leader Brian Pallister.
No one is talking about him much.
02/18/2015 9:43 AM
"We can't be afraid to take risks, to innovate, to experiment." - Free Press editor Paul Samyn Feb. 17, 2015
Like many other things, I blame Paul.
And that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
On Tuesday I thought, with Larry Kusch's blessing, I would take Paul's words to heart. I would engage avid Free Press readers with an online poll asking who among the gleesome threesome they think should be the next leader of the NDP.
I would put Samyn's words into action.
So I crafted an online poll using Survey Monkey. Then I blogged the survey link. I also shared the survey link on social media, that new tool us MSM types are all over like nobody's business, polluting kabillions of feeds across the web with our erudite musings and photos of our cats.
I wanted a good response. What I didn't count on was it being so quickly hijacked.
Now, as always, I stand to be corrected, but methinks the supporters and assorted underlings in two campaigns took to the survey like unionistas on a free box of doughnuts at a chapel meeting.
When word of the survey hit the Selinger campaign HQ, I can just imagine the reaction. (Imagine is the key word in that last sentence. I highlighted it for emphasis.)
Greg Selinger: "Dagnabbit, Owen's doing a survey. Quick, Paul, no not you McKie, the other Paul, help me out. Can you and your daughter click on me? Tell your members to do the same."
Paul Moist: "I'm on it, partner."
Steve Ashton: "Holy mackerel, Niki, help out your dad again. Call Alex and let's put this fire out. I can't stress this enough."
Alex Forrest: "We are in your corner Steve!"
Theresa Oswald: "Michael? Michael? Michael? What should we do?"
Michael Balagus: "Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Let them fight it out on Owen's #&%!*&$ing survey. Our enemy is Brian Pallister."
So, anyway, that's my interpretation of the survey's results. I'll leave it open and continue to gather results and comments, only because I haven't figured out how to turn it off.
02/16/2015 10:28 AM
Which of these three people should guide the NDP into the next election?
Take the survey here: Who's the best choice?
We'll update the results when we hit 100 responses, plus give you a slice of the comments that are coming in.
You can only vote once, so make sure you're confident in your pick before you hit "done".
We'll keep poll open to allow folks at home to play after work.
The early results:
As of 1 p.m. we've had 235 responses:
Selinger - 123
Ashton - 49
Oswald - 63
The mid-afternoon results:
As of 2:30 p.m. we've had 629 responses:
Selinger - 374
Ashton - 171
Oswald - 84
Here's a sampling of some of the comments:
1 His leadership as Min. of Finance and Premier has been solid. The sales tax hike of 1% has created a lot of jobs and necessary infrastructure. In this campaign he will prove that he is much better as Premier than Pallister ever can be.
2 A generational change is needed. We've tried the old boys club...let's let a woman lead!
3 Why not, right?
4 One of the best economies and lowest unemployment rates in the country. Can't go wrong with Mr. Selinger.
5 You should never turn your back on your leader, then tell everyone vote for me.
6 We need fresh leadership which only Theresa can offer.
7 They are all idiots!
8 Oswald can connect with the swing voters in ridings the NDP need to win.
9 They will get killed if Selinger or Ashton are elected. Their only hope is Oswald. Stunned that anyone would think otherwise.
10 It's a no-brainer since Oswald's only one who can stop Brian Pallister.
11 absolutely the best candidate, proven record of winning and strong leadership in difficult times
12 Much of the deficit he is being accused of creating has been the result of unprecedented flooding. We forget it was he as finance minister that got us out if the financial and social services mess the Tories left us in. I hate to think where this province would be currently if the Tories were leading us through the floods. Probably would be selling off MPI or MB Hydro to cover costs.
13 I think Steve Ashton. The party will not be unified if the others win. In any event, I will be voting for PC. Enough of the NDP.
14 The grey hairs do not differentiate enough from Pallister. A woman leader of the NDP and as Premier is definitely needed.
15 A majority of insiders don't support Selinger, and loyalty matters in politics as in life. Those two facts alone make it a one person race
16 he's the only one with brains and class enough to be our Premier, Oswald attacked her own party and leader, she's a traitor, Ashton doesn't have what it takes to be a Premier
17 All my Tory friends say Oswald's their worst nightmare.
18 It doesn't really matter. The party is in tatters and the leadership race isn't going to repair it. There'll be another leadership contest after the election and whoever is leader will step down. Do I gear anyone mentioning Kevin Chief?
19 Polling is a political tool or a political weapon depending (how) you hold it.
20 So they have a higher chance of losing.
21 (Oswald) One, because I'm a fan of hers, and two, she scares the whatsis outta Pallister. After March 8th I'll just sit back & watch Pallister blow it!
22 Oswald offers the same moderate, more Big L Liberal face the worked so well for Gary Doer. Plus, the
ineffectiveness and invisibility of the current Liberal leader has the votes parked with her as easy pickings for Oswald, should she win.
23 Thanks so much for all the work going in covering this. Also very much enjoying the commentary coming along with it.
24 Time for a breath of fresh air.
25 Anyone but osWalding.
26 Greg has been good for Manitoba, but the damage is done to his reputation and him and Theresa are like oil and water. Steve can bring people back together and clean up the mess.
27 Oswald has been a huge disappointment. Wow, all this for nothing. Makes one wonder how petty the internal disagreements are. Would never want her leading this party or any party.
28 She's the only one who gives the NDP a chance against the Tories.
29 Greg is finished. Steve is yesterday's man. Theresa is the future, change and hope.
30 Selinger clearly underestimates the level of discontent and Ashton is too representative of a tired government so Oswald is a default choice rather than a best choice.
31 She has the best plan and a different kind of leader who has the best chance to stop Brian Pallister.
32 NDP needs to be kicked out, and Steve is the guy to guarantee that happening!
33 (Selinger) You dance with the person who brung ya
34 Team reflects the diversity of the party and the province.
35 Theresa connects with the people the NDP needs to win another majority gov't. Selinger has lost the trust of Manitobans. Ashton has never given a straight answer to a question in his life.
36 (Oswald) Only one that can win in 2016.
37 (Oswald) One of these things is not like the other.
38 Ya dance with the one that brung ya!
39 Theresa is the only NDP candidate that has a chance in the next election. I hope that NDP members are wise enough to see this. Otherwise, start getting used to being in opposition.
40 (Ashton) A true New Democrat. Plays by the rules. Didn't break solidarity.
41 Trust the woman to do the difficult things no-one else wants to do, and do them well.
42 Because he is already the Premier and Leader of the Party.
43 For the NDP's sake, it should be Oswald, but overall it doesn't matter. Add a Gary Doer box for kicks.
44 A trained seal has more political savvy then these 3 morons.
Elsewhere and beyond, Selinger and Oswald have been busy on Youtube. Each has their own YouTube channel.
Ashton has had a film crew following him around, so expect something soon.
P.S. Here's a handy map of the constituency delegate count as of today, Feb. 17: https://twitter.com/EarlWashburn/status/567741964741664768/photo/1
About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen
Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.
Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.
At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.
Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.
He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.
Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.
In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.
You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.
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