Dan Lett

  • Our version of an orange revolution?

    After four full weeks of the longest federal election campaign in 140 years, what have we learned about the parties, the issues and ourselves? The first and most profound discovery is that calling a 77-day election campaign in a cynical bid to outspend your less well-funded opponents is a silly strategy. Perhaps the silliest electoral strategy ever.
  • Who you gonna trust?

    As a week of remarkable testimony at the fraud trial of suspended Sen. Mike Duffy comes to a close, it is safe now to conclude that never before have we seen a party vying for re-election hang out so much dirty laundry in the midst a campaign. To summarize: this week, we heard the last of testimony from Nigel Wright, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and from lawyer Benjamin Perrin, former legal adviser to Harper. Although the two men were frequently at odds with each other in their recollection of events, there was enough overlap to further damage Tory fortunes in this campaign.
  • NDP's carefully crafted pipeline policy will only face more attacks

    Moments after NDP Leader Tom Mulcair took the stage Thursday night for a rally in downtown Winnipeg, it was clear this election campaign will be unlike any other for Canada’s perennial federal electoral bridesmaid. Mulcair had barely begun his stump speech in the presence of more than 1,000 diehard supporters when a dozen protesters began shouting their displeasure at the federal NDP’s support for the Energy East pipeline project.
  • Who is this middle class Trudeau is courting?

    Even three weeks into the election campaign, it’s become clear Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau believes the path to glory in this election runs through the hearts and minds of a cynical, disadvantaged middle class. It’s a fascinating political strategy that, theoretically, has the potential to be effective in an election involving an incumbent government that has done more for upper-income classes than ever before. And no matter how you define middle class, Canadians who find themselves above the poor but below the wealthy are, in demographic terms, the largest constituency among the electorate.
  • Politicians sly regarding economy's performance

    With each passing week in this incredibly close, three-way federal election campaign, it seems more likely voters will flock to the leader and party they believe to be the best economic stewards. As most voters know, the economy is struggling. Low oil prices and lower demand for Canadian resources and manufactured goods have stalled economic growth. Government revenues have slowed considerably as a result.
  • Trudeau playing with Tories? Grit leader may benefit from pummelling

    We're only two weeks into the campaign, but national opinion polls all seem to be telling us the same story: this is likely the closest three-way electoral race in Canadian history. In general, the NDP seem to lead most polls, with the Conservatives in second and the Liberals close behind in third. In most of these polls, there are only five percentage points separating the three parties, which is near or within the margin of error.
  • Harper's rally shows Tories need Winnipeg to hold power

    It was, from the Conservative Party’s point of view, a picture perfect event. Two hundred or so diehard Tory supporters, vetted for appropriate levels of zealousness, packed into a gaudy nightclub attached to a Polo Park area hotel. The club was festooned with Tory-blue signs and t-shirts. A mostly docile media throng was well contained in a holding pen, there to document the speech. All this to set the stage for Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper, the first major party leader to visit Winnipeg in this campaign. It wasn’t a long stopover, just long enough for Harper to give Winnipeg supporters some grade ‘A’, premium stump speech.
  • What is their message? Depends where you live

    When NDP candidate Linda McQuaig started talking last week about climate change and Alberta's oilsands, she probably had no intention of creating a weekend's worth of negative headlines for her party. But that's what happened. During a television interview, McQuaig suggested for Canada to meet its climate change targets, "a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground." For a federal NDP that has worked mightily to maintain a delicate balance between supporters and detractors of the oilsands, McQuaig's comments were more than awkward.
  • Harper's infrastructure fail

    It was somewhat of a surprise -- an alarming one -- that through the entirety of last Thursday's leaders debate, infrastructure received only brief attention. To be more specific (and thanks to the folks at Maclean's magazine, the debate host, for posting a full transcript) infrastructure was mentioned a total of nine times during the two-hour televised debate. And all of those references were in passing, with no specific details.
  • Under harsh television lights, May the most natural, relaxed and elegant debater

    In the days leading up to a national, televised election debate — like the Maclean’s magazine debate that took place Thursday night — there is always a strenuous effort by journalists and other observers to build it into something it is not. We use a lot of boxing and professional sports terminology. We hype and promote our coverage and in the process, suggest that there will be a knockout moment. Horse racing analogies are not unusual.
  • Going early and long may keep voters home

    It's a tight three-way election with a wide array of policies and pledges and clear contrast between the party leaders. But will that be enough to motivate voters to get involved? In general, campaigns that feature tight races, particularly those where three parties have a theoretical shot at winning, tend to draw voters in greater numbers. Hard-core supporters are motivated to ensure their votes count; estranged or occasional voters get caught up in the campaign excitement.
  • Politicians willing to talk about taxes... even increases

    There was a time, not so long ago, when most politicians in this country had trouble uttering two specific words, particularly when they were used together. Tax increase.
  • Ignoring media requests a winning strategy

    NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair wasted no time demonstrating how much Canada's political landscape has changed. It was Sunday and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper had just triggered a federal election. Mulcair, a surprising front-runner in this campaign, made his opening remarks about the election standing at a waterfront podium in Gatineau, Que.
  • Early election call raising red flags

    Welcome to the 42nd federal general election, easily the most cynical election in Canadian history. Why cynical? For what appears to be purely partisan reasons, on Sunday morning Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to drop the writ early for the October 19 vote. His decision makes this a 79-day campaign, the longest federal campaign in 140 years and easily the most expensive ever.
  • On the economy, Tories in denial

    Chances are that if you read or watch a news story these days about the anemic Canadian economy, you're likely to see a certain accompanying image. That photograph - from April 21, the day the 2015-16 federal budget was tabled -- shows Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Joe Oliver smiling broadly and giving the thumbs-up as they approached the House of Commons.
  • Riverbank issue swept under rug

    It seemed like a good idea at the time. When European fur traders first occupied land at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, they understood proximity to waterways was good for transportation. Later, when settlers expanded the fur-trading post into a permanent community, they knew the rivers were good for agriculture.
  • City has finally decided it's time to talk

    When it comes to corporate communications at Winnipeg city hall, management has apparently decided it's time to go in a different direction. Councillors and city hall insiders found out late last week that Steve West, the city's longtime manager of corporate communications, will be moving to a new job. West will start serving as the manager of strategic initiatives within the corporate support services department on Aug. 4.
  • City unfolding as it should

    For a couple of weeks this summer, the City of Winnipeg's chief planner, Braden Smith, found himself in the news on a regular basis. And each time the Free Press wrote about him, the story was accompanied by a particular photo that showed Smith frowning despondently. That made sense given that the stories dealt with a series of decisions by councillors to reject recommendations from Smith's department. The photo seemed to be one of those images that completely captures the essence of a story.
  • Manitoba Liberals scoop up former PC spinner — now it's time to cash in

    It’s intriguing, but is it a game-changer? The Manitoba Liberals have hired Mike Brown, former director of communication for Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister. Brown will take over communications for Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari.
  • A thinly veiled attempt to curry voter favour

    It was watching Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre on television recently that got me to thinking about Anthony Hopkins. Well, not Hopkins per se, but rather his harrowing performance as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the epic horror film The Silence of the Lambs. In particular, the scene where Hopkins/Lecter is trying to lure personal details out of FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jody Foster) in exchange for information about another serial killer on the loose.
  • Seeds of city dysfunction are sown

    Although it has been said that everyone loves a circus, it seems nobody loves a circus more than Winnipeg city council. For most of the last month, Winnipeggers have been treated to a series of emotional outbursts, hyperbolic allegations and melodramatic performance art courtesy of Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, council's own ringmaster of mayhem.
  • Early election call a Tory strategy?

    It's a risky way to approach voters, many of whom understand that we live in a country where you can only count on having about 60 truly warm-weather days, and that those days come in July and August. It's also risky as far as your own party is concerned. Elected officials look forward to summer for two main reasons. First, just like other Canadians, politicians want to take advantage of what little warm weather this country offers. Second, after spending most of the other months slaving away in and around legislatures, summer is the time they reacquaint themselves with constituents -- something that helps elected officials get re-elected.
  • Province's flood procurement practices ripe for abuse

    Did embattled cabinet minister Steve Ashton cross the line when he tried to get a $5-million untendered contract for a company represented in Manitoba by a close personal and political friend? Ashton certainly doesn’t think so. And he has gone to some lengths to deny that he did anything wrong.
  • Tough time to be a Manitoba NDPer

    As the spring session of the Manitoba legislature comes to an end, it appears quite obvious now that in all of Canadian politics, there is no government facing more problems than Manitoba's NDP government. After nearly 16 years in power and four consecutive majority mandates the NDP finds itself bloodied by internal strife, riddled with controversy and saddled with a middling economy and a stubborn budget deficit. The most recent results from a Free Press-Probe Research poll show the NDP firmly rooted in second place, 17 points down from the front-running Progressive Conservatives.
  • Ontario’s critical-incident overhaul a lesson for NDP

    It was an important step forward in the chronic battle to force the health care system to admit more of its mistakes. Last week, Ontario's Liberal government announced it was overhauling a law that allowed the health care system to investigate medical errors - so-called "critical incidents" - in secret. The amendments would force hospitals to provide more information to the families of loved ones who died in care, and to post more information online for the public to make decisions about where to go for their health care.

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