Tagged: Liberal Party of NS
To my complaint that a small cadre of apparatchiks in the premier’s office exercised far too much central control, a party supporter employed in the administration offered this colourful label:
[A] group of too-young, nasty, disconnected, Harper-style assholes.
Another longtime party supporter on the party’s left flank wrote:
One of the most disappointing failures of the government was not bring more talented, knowledgeable, and competent people into the government and the party.
In every area the government claims to be interested in improving—the environment, poverty, health care, metal health, economic development, law reform, poverty reduction—there are activists who have toiled for years to bring about change. Many of these people are highly competent, and often more knowledgeable about these issue then either the elected politicians or the departmental bureaucrats.
Many, but certainly not all, are (or were) likely NDP supporters. They represent of pool of talent and possible new ideas that has been left almost completely untapped. I’m not suggesting that they should have immediately done a wholesale house cleaning, either in the government or the party but they should have immediately began recruiting among their ranks and brought them into influence as opportunities arose.
If they had, perhaps some of the mistakes you listed might have been avoided and we might also have seen much more solid progressive legislation. I think the similar case can be made for the approach to cabinet selection.
On the positive side, in spite of making some major mistakes and ignoring for too long concerned voices from their base, they have generally been more competent then any recent government, and much more competent then either of the opposition parties are likely to be. They have also made major positive change in a number of areas such as health care and the environment. Yet in spite of this it seems as if we are about to return to mediocre ineptitude.
Over the last 48 hours, polls have tightened from the breathtaking 30-point Liberal lead reported by Corporate Research Associates early in the week, to a merely commanding 18-20 point lead Thursday. The prospect of the Liberals carrying all but a handful of seats seems to have given some citizens pause, including one Halifax voter who was overheard to say:
I don’t like [the NDP], but the government wasn’t THAT bad.
On the weekend, a closer look at the Liberals’ election-lite platform.
Since 1970, four Nova Scotia governments have delayed elections into the fifth year of their mandates. Three of the four got clobbered.
- In 1978, Gerald Regan’s Liberals went almost seven months into their fifth year, then dropped from 31 seats to 17.
- In 1993, Donald Cameron’s Progressive Conservatives went almost eight months into their fifth year, and fell from 28 seats to 9.
- Almost five years later, Russell MacLellan led the Liberals from a commanding 40 seats to a humiliating 19-seat tie with the New Democrats, allowing him to govern only briefly with the slenderest of minorities.
- In 2003, John Hamm went just 10 days into his fifth year, and came up two seats short of a second majority.
Darrell Dexter’s is the fifth government since 1970 to linger into a fifth year. If my guess is right, and he schedules an election for October 1st or 8th, he’ll have been in power four years and four months.
Dexter would not have held off so long but for a terrible string of polls starting in spring of 2012, when Stephen McNeil’s Liberals surged into a first-place tie. The latest Corporate Research Associates poll, in June, showed the Liberals with 45 percent of decided voters, to the NDP’s 26 percent, and the PCs’ 24 percent. The N-dips claim their own confidential polls are better, but they’d have to be much better to offer any encouragement at all.
Polls taken between elections may tell you which way the wind is blowing, but they don’t tell you how hard. That last CRA survey found 55 percent of respondents undecided about how they would vote. People just haven’t turned their minds to the question yet.
That’s why I don’t think Dexter will call an election before Labour Day. To win a second term, the NDP needs to win the campaign. A plurality of voters needs to decide that Dexter looks, sounds, and acts more like a premier than McNeil, whose crowd-pleasing but benighted policy proposals, especially on energy, may not hold up under election scrutiny.
For that to happen, voters need to be paying attention. They won’t do that in the sweet summer days of August.
Even then, it may be too late. There’s a lot of anger out there—some of it warranted, some of thoughtlessly peevish. If voters get a notion to throw the bums out, no election timing legerdemain will stop them.
Citing the latest of several Corporate Research Associates polls showing Darrell Dexter’s New Democrats with a comfortable lead, longtime Progressive Conservative Rob Smith has a piece in today’s AllNovaScotia.com [subscription required] proposing some form of Liberal-Tory co-operation to prevent what the news service alarmingly headlines, “Socialists forever.”
This argument would be more persuasive if the Dexter Government had shown any sign of being either permanent or socialist. Dexter won office less than three years ago, and he did so by turning quietly away from the strident leftist approach of previous NDP leaders, and toward centrist policies where Nova Scotia voters have traditionally found their comfort zone. The phrase, “for today’s families,” doesn’t exactly call to mind Rosa Luxemburg.
The NDP’s historic breakthrough reflects two longterm political trends.
- As Western Canada and — to a lesser extent — Ontario turned sharply right over the last 20 years, Nova Scotia remained true to what might be called Red Tory values: We remain economically moderate and socially liberal. The widening gulf makes us look uncharacteristically leftish by comparison, but it’s the Uppity Canadian leopards who’ve changed their stripes, not us.
- Over the same period, party divisions within Nova Scotia have coalesced into three clear zones: Liberal Cape Breton; Tory rural mainland; and NDP Metro. Dexter won the last election on the strength of inroads not in Cape Breton, where he picked up no additional seats, but in the rural mainland, where loyal Tories winced at the Rodney Interregnum.
If Dexter were recklessly pursuing ideology over the province’s best interests, an opposition coalition might be in order. I believe the Harper government’s US Republican-style extremism should cause Liberals, New Democrats, and disaffected Stanfield Progressive Conservatives to explore avenues of co-operation.
But to argue that anything Dexter has done is so far outside the mainstream, or so redolent of permanent hegemony, as to inspire a Tory-Liberal Union is, forgive me Rob, just silly.
Labor lawyer Ron Stockton, who is also president of the Lunenburg NDP Association, protests that the insulated lunch bags distributed to Grade Primary students in
Nova Scotia the Annapolis, Cape Breton-Victoria, South Shore, and Strait regional school boards this month and next (and pictured here) do not appear to be NDP orange, but rather, red with orange trim.
If the government were Liberal would you have levelled the same criticism? If a PC government put out materials that were blue (admittedly a much more commonly used colour) would you have criticized them? At my age I like things to be as colourful as possible (just as I did when I was a kid). I love the look of it even though I may have used more orange than red and added a bit of glow-in-the-dark green.
The confusion is, I’m afraid, an artifact of the way computer screens reproduce color shades. The bag is NDP orange. Here’s a close-up:
Contrarian reader Paul Taylor asks a bonus question: Where were the bags manufactured and printed? For the answer, we turned to the information label affixed to the bag, as required by the Textile Labeling Act (apologies for the poor resolution):
That would be Sweda USA, an “integrated supplier and manufacturer of promotional products that provides innovative marketing solutions for the advertising specialties industry,” and China, a manufacturing powerhouse in Asia. Jobs here? Not so much.
And while on the subject of full disclosure, this is as good a time as any to reveal that last Friday, at 10:30 pm, I joined the federal New Democratic Party, just before the midnight deadline for qualifying to vote in the leadership race. I intend to vote for whichever candidate is most open to cooperating with the Liberals in defeating the Harper Government and allowing Canada’s moderate-left consensus to govern, probably this one. When the Liberal leadership voting deadline rolls around, I’ll probably join that party, if they’ll have me, with the same goal in mind. And I voted Conservative in two of the last three provincial elections. Go figure.
But I still think the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party should reimburse the province’s taxpayers for this shameless bit of political promotion aimed at schoolchildren and their parents.
We can’t say whether Liberal leader Stephen McNeil read this particular Contrarian entry, but he did both the right thing and the smart thing in helping astonished New Democrats speed passage of political financing reform through the house in a single day.
It’s the smart thing, because McNeil couldn’t prevent passage of the new law, so why encourage days of debate focusing on past Liberal wrongdoing? It’s the right thing, because no party should enjoy a permanent finger on the political scale based on a 40-year-old shakedown racket. McNeil explained it this way:
It was my direction—and I take full responsibility—that this issue needs to be behind us. It needs to be behind the party, and [let’s] get on with doing the business of bringing our Liberal values, Liberal views, and engaging Nova Scotians about, not only how we hold the government accountable, but the things that matter to them and how we put together public policy.
McNeil is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. He wasn’t around 40 years ago. Now that the authority has passed into his hands, he can take credit for acting decisively and correctly: A mark of leadership.
That’s how the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia obtained the money it would be blocked from using by a government bill introduced in the legislature Tuesday. Liberal leader Stephen McNeil should think hard before crying victim.
Justice Minister Ross Landry, who introduced the bill, suggested the Liberals give the tainted funds to charity. A better idea would be to give it back to the provincial treasury, because that’s who they stole it from.
McNeil may think voters’ memories are too short to remember the details, but a few of us old coots are still around to remind them.
The money in question came from two ‘trust’ accounts, the Hawco and Howmur Funds. They came to light in the 1983 influence-peddling trial of three Nova Scotia Liberal Party fundraisers, Sen. Augustus Irvine Barrow, Clarence MacFadden, and the colorfully named James G. “Suitcase” Simpson.
The three bagmen oversaw a Liberal Party toll-gating scheme from 1970 to 1978, while Gerald Regan was premier. As the Supreme Court of Canada (R. v. Barrow,  2 S.C.R. 694) described it:
In October of 1970, the liberal party defeated the then Government of Nova Scotia in a general election and formed the new government which held power until 1978. During the period from 1970 to 1978, the Committee collected contributions amounting in total to $3,836,468.13, of which $2,770,773.52 was deposited in one bank account and $1,065,694.61 in the other. A police investigation commenced in the autumn of 1978 resulted in the seizure of many documents from government departments and agencies and also from several wineries, distilleries and other corporations. The evidence revealed that the contributions made by liquor and wine companies dealing with the government were based on a fixed amount per case of products sold to the Government. Other companies doing business with the government paid a percentage of monies they received from government work which ranged from three to five per cent.
Simpson plead guilty and paid a $75,000 fine. MacFadden and Barrow were found guilty at trial; MacFadden paid a $25,000 fine, but Barrow, for whom conviction would have meant expulsion from the Senate, appealed and won a new trial on a technicality. He was acquitted at a second trial.
At the first trial, Hugh Rynard, president of Acres Consulting Services Ltd., testified:
One of my functions was to insure that we as a company did whatever was necessary to improve our ability both in obtaining work and in execution of our work. And I was told that it would be in order for me to seek an appointment with Mr. Barrow.
Rynard and Barrow met on March 7, 1973 so Rynard could pitch the bagman on the company’s expertise. According to Rynard’s undisputed testimony, Barrow:
told me during that conversation that we would be expected to pay from three percent to five percent of the fees generated from Provincial Government work to the . . . into the coffers of the Liberal Party.
For years, the Liberal Party used interest off these secret funds to finance campaigns and, in at least one notorious example, to pay a secret salary to Liberal leader Vince MacLean.
The funds returned to the public spotlight in the early nineties, thanks to late George Hawkins, a courageous Liberal who spent years trying to convince fellow Party members to give up their ill-gotten gains, and apologize for taking them in the first place. “Since the beginning of the Regan administration,” Hawkins said, “the Liberal Party… has been living… from the proceeds of crime.”
Even before the Barrow-MacFadden trial, Hawkins knew the source of the money because, ironically, his father, a Liberal stalwart, had set up one of the funds. There is little doubt that Nova Scotia Conservatives carried out similar shakedowns during the Robert Stanfield and G.I. Smith administrations, but the party’s financial records were destroyed in a mysterious fire around the time the RCMP began making inquiries.
Thanks to pressure from Hawkins, the Liberal Party eventually agreed to audit the funds, and relinquish to the province any money that proved tainted. But as Kings College Journalism prof. Steven Kimber recounts, the party’s actions fell short of this promise:
After another year of obfuscating, the party released its so-called “audit,” which wasn’t. Instead, the auditors, “as specifically agreed,” only perused the actual trial transcript and identified $1,287,473.14 “proven or alleged to have been obtained” through kickbacks. “This procedure,” the auditors noted dryly, “does not constitute an audit.”
Liberal House Leader Manning MacDonald likes to pretend the funds were “cleansed many years ago” through this process, but this is malarkey. Most, if not all of the money that remains in the funds was stolen from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.
Steven McNeil has a decision to make. Will he continue the long tradition of lying about the source of this money? Or will he support Bill 44, a measure that would finally put this sordid chapter of our history to rest?
Today’s Antigonish by-election is a foregone conclusion. N-dip Moe Smith came within 275 votes of knocking off popular Tando MacIsaac in June’s general election. Tando having abandoned the seat so abruptly, and the NDP firmly ensconced in Province House, Smith will take the riding in a walk.
Inverness is a different matter. The riding is festooned with election signs in roughly equal numbers. Although then-Premier Rodney MacDonald out-polled his nearest rival by 3,431 votes in June, would-be Tory successor Allan MacMaster is widely expected to place third today. The premier’s abandonment of the riding, like Tando’s of neighboring Antigonish, will hurt MacMaster, as will the traditional Liberal stronghold’s penchant for snuggling up to the government side of the House.
Liberal Ian McNeil, a former CBC Radio host (and—disclosure—a friend of Contrarian’s), was widely regarded as the man to beat at the outset of the campaign. While hosting CBC-Cape Breton’s Information Morning program, McNeil endured a grueling three-hour daily commute to maintain his East Lake Ainslie home in the riding. A man with strong rural sensibilities, McNeil created the CBC’s Party Line feature, and he has hosted musical events and community forums in every fire hall and church basement in the county.
CBC-Cape Breton’s signal does not reach the southern end of the constituency, however. So McNeil is not as well known in riding’s largest population center, the town of Port Hawkesbury, where NDP candidate Bert Lewis is recently retired as principal of the Nova Scotia Community College campus. You have to wonder whether the 11th-hour NSCC strike settlement, details of which are conveniently unavailable, will help Lewis.
A much weaker NDP candidate placed second in June, a first for the party, albeit with only 20.5 percent of the vote. But it’s a government-prone riding, and this time, voters know which party is in government.
If McNeil loses, I suspect it will be because of a misstep. More than the other two candidates, he has blanketed the riding with robo-calls, and these aren’t sitting well with voters I’ve heard from.
The indefatigable Wallace J. McLean (note correct spelling; mea culpa) has risen to contrarian‘s challenge, and defended his view that the MacDonald government’s paving proposals were as politically skewed as the Harper government’s selective approvals thereof.
This time he buttresses his case with a map, using traditional party colors in two shades: darker for ridings in which the government proposed paving; lighter for those where it did not.
Turning this map back into numbers, the Rodney government proposed work in two out of six rural Liberal districts (33%); three out of eight rural NDP districts (38%), and 13 out of 21 rural PC districts. That’s 62% of them.
Contrarian concedes that McLean has demonstrated a provincial Tory skew from which many will impute deliberate bias. But the provincial skew does not approach the 4-to-1 edge the Harper-MacKay Reformers Conservatives bestowed upon their own ridings. In either case, the new NDP administration has a chance to banish this ancient and corrupt system by implementing its promise of a five year paving plan to get the politics out of paving..