Friday, 30 January 2009

Ontario NDP leadership endorsement watch

All four candidates have published endorsement lists on their websites. Of the 10 person provincial caucus the endorsements are breaking down as follows:

Peter Tabuns (2) (himself and Cheri DiNovo, Parkdale-High Park)

Michael Prue (2) (himself and Paul Miller, Hamilton East-Stony Creek)

Gilles Bisson (2) (himself and France GĂ©linas, Nickle Belt)

Andrea Horwath (3) (herself, Peter Kormos, Niagara Centre; Rosario Marchese, Trinity-Spadina)


Three One MPP is uncommitted - outgoing leader Howard Hampton is expected to remain neutral. Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina) and Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre) are still to declare their intentions.

The federal NDP's Ontario caucus is larger with 17 MPs but most of them have stayed on the sidelines. Here is the endorsement breakdown so far:

Gilles Bisson (7) Charlie Angus, Timmins James Bay; Tony Martin, Sault Ste. Marie; Carol Hughes, Algoma. Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior), John Rafferty (Thunder Bay-Rainy River), Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury) and Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt) have now endorsed as well.**

Andrea Horwath (3) David Christopherson, Hamilton Centre; Chris Charlton, Hamilton Mountain; Malcolm Allen, Welland.***

Peter Tabuns (2) Irene Mathyssen, London—Fanshawe, Paul Dewar*, Ottawa Centre.

Michael Prue (0)


10 5 MPs are left to declare. Federal leader Jack Layton is expected to remain officially neutral - unofficially he's assumed to be backing Peter Tabuns who represents Layton's riding provincially and is a long time friend and colleague from their days as wardmates on Toronto City Council. The remaining MPs left to declare are:

Jack Layton, Toronto-Danforth (expected to remain neutral)
Olivia Chow, Trinity—Spadina
Joe Comartin, Windsor—Tecumseh
Wayne Marston, Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Brian Masse, Windsor West

Overall the endorsement lists are notable in the following ways.

Bisson's list of endorsements is, not suprisingly, tilted heavily towards the northern Ontario (not listed yet is the Nickel Belt NDP Riding association which has also endorsed Bisson) It's easy for those of us in Toronto to take the north for granted but northern Ontario is a major base for the NDP and he could do much better than expected if he's able to consolidate the north. The Nickel Belt riding association alone, for instance, has 1,000 members or 5% of the total Ontario NDP membership. Therefore, it'll be interesting to see if the four currently uncommitted northern MPs fall in behind Bisson. Since writing this the four remaining northern MPs have endorsed Bisson.

Andrea Horwath's endorsement list
, aside from being Hamilton heavy, is also very union heavy and includes Ontario Federation of Labour president Wayne Samuelson and OFL Secretary-Treasurer Irene Harris, former OPSEU president Leah Casselman as well as a number of labour council presidents and union locals from around the province as well as a number of current and former union executive members. Only 75% of the "votes" in the leadership election will be on a One Member One Vote basis. Labour delegates are responsible for the other 25% of the vote so labour can still play a very important role in determining the outcome.

Toronto city councillors are heavily represented among Michael Prue's endorsements as are several former MPPs including NDP MPP and Speaker of the Legislature David Warner, former MPP Gary Malkowski (both according to Prue's campaign literature) and former cabinet minister Marilyn Churley. Not listed is the strong support Prue enjoys from public school teachers, particular a number of OSSTF officials, due to his stance on reopening the debate on Separate School funding. Also not listed is Prue's endorsement from the NDP Socialist Caucus (which is more a function of the fact that one Socialist Caucus co-chair is a public school teacher and the other is a public school trustee rather than of any hitherto crypto-Marxist tendencies on Prue's part).

Finally, Peter Tabuns' official endorsement list shows union support from the Toronto area - such as the Toronto Area Steelworkers Council , UNITE HERE Local 75 and CUPE Local 1 as well as support from party "establishment" figures - former provincial secretaries and party presidents such as Michael Lewis, Janet Solberg, Jill Marzetti, Andre Foucault and Diane O'Reggio as well as other prominent party figures such as Hugh and Dan Mackenzie. (It's not insignificant that the prominent Lewis and Mackenzie families, often in rival leadership camps in the past, are both behind Tabuns).

So what does this mean? It is interesting that the "party establishment" and the "labour establishment" are backing different candidates. Prue, who is widely perceived to be in second place, seems to be trailing in the endorsement race - possibly because his willingness to open the Separate School issue and his emphasis on internal party democracy may have alienated his colleagues and prominent party figures. Can he make up the difference by winning the grassroots? Bisson is dominant in the north (though he hasn't gotten all his federal caucus colleagues wrapped up yet, at least not publicly) but has not made significant inroads in other regions. Still, the north is the NDP's base at present and being their favourite son could position him well.

A race that seemed to be developing as a Tabuns romp a few months ago may be a lot more competitive than expected.

*UPDATED: I'm told that MP Paul Dewar endorsed Tabuns at today's leadership debate in Ottawa.

**UPDATED: Gilles Bisson's campaign announced today that Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay-Superior), John Rafferty (Thunder Bay-Rainy River), Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury) and Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt) have endorsed his campaign meaning all northern Ontario MPs are supporting Bisson.

***Updated: Malcolm Allen, the MP for Welland has followed Peter Kormos' lead and endorsed Horwath.

****Marchese has endorsed Horwath.
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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Iggy gags caucus III

Earlier this month I alleged that new Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was gagging his MPs from speaking out on Gaza. My allegation was indirectly proven by the fact that a number of MPs who were usually outspoken on the issue of Palestinian rights were remaining silent during the Gaza war. The furthest any Grit MP would go, namely Rob Oliphant, Bonnie Crombie, Borys Wrezesnewskyj and Jim Karygiannis, was to attend a round table discussion with pro-Palestinian groups to hear their concerns but no Liberal MP agreed to speak at any of the numerous of Gaza solidarity rallies and events held during the war or to criticize Israel in the media.

Nevertheless, several people were either skeptical of my assertion that there was a gag order or were reserving judgment while Ignatieff's office officially denied that they would ever do such a thing.

Well, today comes confirmation that Ignatieff is muzzling his caucus and is attempting to control the access his MPs have to the media. The Globe and Mail reports that

At his first caucus meeting as leader in December, [Ignatieff] made it clear the caucus speaks with one voice and it is his.

“He laid down the law at the beginning. You could hear a pin drop,” a Liberal insider said about the way Mr. Ignatieff outlined the new one-voice strategy. He said Mr. Ignatieff possesses discipline and firmness. “You know when you leave the room who the leader is.”


In addition, Ignatieff is banning "Liberal strategists" from appearing on TV panels without approval.

So far, the designation of TV pundits has not been tested, but the other Ignatieff edict is working. Trying to get any information from this week's caucus proved extremely difficult.

“We have taken a death vow,” one Liberal MP said. “You could hold me down and tickle me. I'm totally mum on this one.”
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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Iggy folds


Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said his party is prepared to “swallow hard” and support the Conservative government, provided they agree to table regular updates outlining how they are living up to their commitments outlined in the federal budget.

Is that it? Is that seriously Iggy's only condition for passing the budget? Despite broad-based demands the budget does nothing to rectify the absurd qualification regime for EI which excludes over 60% of unemployed Ontarians from the program. An effective form of unemployment insurance is an absolute necessity as we enter this recession and yet not only has the Harper government refused to budge on this issue but the Ignatieff Liberals have balked at holding Harper's feet to the fire and insisting that the budget be amended to broaden EI eligibility as a condition for Liberal support.

Instead all Ignatieff is asking for is "regular updates" from the government? This alone will satisfy the Liberals and cause them to favour the continuation of the Harper horror show and ditch the coalition which could have taken power as soon as this Thursday.

This is leadership? This is using your political advantage to leverage concessions?

If neither the Tories nor the federal Liberals are prepared to fix the EI system perhaps the Ontario government, which has complained about the current inequity, should seriously consider this proposal to pull out of the federal EI system and create an Ontario Employment Insurance Program instead?
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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Liberal MPs gagged part II: The Hounds of the Ignatieffs or the Curious Incident of the Liberal MPs who did not bark

"The dog did nothing in the night-time,"Holmes said. "That was the curious incident."

According to Maclean's columnist Kady O'Malley, the office of Michael Ignatieff has said it is "absolutely untrue" that Liberal MPs have been told not to speak at Gaza solidarity rallies on the pain of having their nominations rejected in the next election. The question then is why was at least one rally organizing committee told otherwise when invitations were extended to Liberal MPs and why is it that not one Liberal MP addressed a single one of the cross-Canada rallies last weekend when NDP MPs such as Irene Mathysson and even a Liberal MPP from Dalton McGuinty's caucus did? Normally, loquacious MPs would climb over each other for the chance to speak to thousands of people and there is no shortage of MPs in the Liberal caucus who have been outspoken supporters of the Palestinians in the past.

Is Ignatieff's office telling the truth or is this a case of plausible deniability?
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Monday, 5 January 2009

Liberal MPs gagged on Gaza

I've just heard word from a reliable source that Liberal MPs have been instructed not to speak at Gaza solidarity rallies with the threat that if they do their nominations forms will not be signed for the next election. I wonder if Liberals have been given the same instruction in relation to pro-Israel rallies?

Click here for an update.
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