Tag Archives: politics

Alberta election: is change in the wind?

 

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, on May 3. Photo: Don Voaklander, creative commons

Polls suggest Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley has a shot at governing. Photo: Don Voaklander, creative commons

Could Alberta be the bellwether for shifting politics in North America’s oil patch communities?

Alberta citizens vote in a provincial election today.  Alberta — world famous as home of the oil sands — has been ruled by the Progressive Conservative party for more than four decades, and it is the base of Canada’s hard-right federal Conservative government. Now the socialist New Democratic Party, which received less than 10 per cent of the popular vote in 2012,  is on a wave of massive popular support, and numerous opinion polls give it a shot at governing.

The election of a socialist government in right-wing Alberta would have been unthinkable until now — but amid social and political upheaval, global oil prices are volatile and plunging, and communities almost entirely reliant on oil and gas extraction are suffering. 

Alberta-based journalists Penney Kome and Sean Holman consider aspects of the issues.

The election, writes Holman, is “a missed opportunity to change that indifference, raising awareness among Albertans about why their information rights are important and how those rights can prevent another 44 years of unaccountable governments in this province.”  

“Alberta, the province that elected North America’s first Muslim mayor, is flirting with another surprise: a feminist New Democrat government — or at least Opposition,” writes Kome.

Click here to read NOTEBOOK: a bellwether election for Alberta?

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NOTEBOOK: a bellwether election for Alberta?

May 5, 2015

Could Alberta become  a bellwether for politics in North America’s oil patch?

Alberta citizens vote in a provincial election today.  Alberta — world famous as home of the oil sands — has been ruled by the Progressive Conservative party for more than four decades, and it is the base of Canada’s hard-right federal Conservative government. Now the socialist New Democratic Party, which received less than 10 per cent of the popular vote in 2012,  is on a wave of massive popular support, and numerous opinion polls give it a shot at governing.

The election of a socialist government in right-wing Alberta would have been unthinkable until now — but amid social and political upheaval, global oil prices are volatile and plunging, and communities almost entirely reliant on oil and gas extraction are suffering.

Alberta-based journalists Penney Kome and Sean Holman consider aspects of the election issues.

Photo of an Alberta oil rig by Greg Locke, Copyright 2014

Alberta oil rig. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014

Transparency Issue Little Seen on Campaign Trail

By Sean Holman

Alberta’s freedom of information law is weak and underused. Yet, in an election where one of the most important issues is government accountability, there has been surprisingly little discussion about reforming that law – despite proposed policy changes that could further threaten the public’s right to know.

Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, Incumbent premier. Photo: premier's office

Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, Incumbent premier. Photo: premier’s office

According to a 2012 report from the Centre for Law and Democracy, Alberta tied with New Brunswick and the federal government for having the worst freedom of information law in the country. In addition, it costs $25 just to file a freedom of information request in Wildrose Country  –  among the highest application fees in the country.

I can’t help but think that’s one reason why the province’s access law is so underused.

According to the most recent statistics available, in fiscal 2012/13 Alberta government ministries received 60 general freedom of information requests per 100,000 people in the province. By comparison, in Ontario, where the application fee for those requests is $5, that number was 87 in 2012. And, in British Columbia, where there is no charge, that number was 106 in 2012/13.

But, troublingly, Premier Jim Prentice has a plan that could further suppress such access requests in Alberta even further.

Right now, an individual who files a freedom of information request is the only one who receives the records responsive to it. That means reporters and others can get scoops from making those requests – a reward for the considerable time, effort and sometimes money spent on them.

But, in February, CBC News revealed the premier moved to take those scoops away by “personally” ordering government to post responses online for everyone to see, including competing reporters. And if you don’t think that’s a disincentive, just think how you would feel if someone else could constantly claim credit for work you were responsible for.

Prentice’s order has yet to be carried out. Nevertheless, the platforms for the Alberta Party, the NDP and the Alberta Liberals don’t include a word about strengthening the province’s freedom of information law. Only Wildrose’s platform promises such a change, while the Greens have a plank that commits them to a “radical overhaul of rules around transparency and accountability.”

Nor have journalists talked much about the need for reform either, perhaps because they believe too many believe Canadians don’t care about that issue – a self-defeating notion, even if it may sometimes be a truthful one.

But what all this amounts to is, at the very least, a missed opportunity to change that indifference, raising awareness among Albertans about why their information rights are important and how those rights can prevent another 44 years of unaccountable governments in this province.  

To read Sean Holman’s full column, Transparency Issue Little Seen on Campaign Trail, visit his site.   

Copyright Sean Holman 2015

Sean Holman is assistant professor of journalism at Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta

Hay field in Peace River, Alberta. Photo by Greg Locke, copyright 2009

Hay field in Peace River, Alberta. Greg Locke © 2009

Alberta poised to turn NDP orange as Tory grip on power withers

By Penney Kome 

Alberta, the province that elected North America’s first Muslim mayor, is flirting with another surprise: a feminist New Democrat government — or at least Opposition — led by labour lawyer Rachel Notley. Notley worked for decades in the essential and very contentious fields of workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety, in B.C. as well as Alberta. Twice elected to the legislature (2008, 2012), she became party leader last October. All of her own accomplishments are enhanced by her heritage as daughter of the late revered ND leader, Grant Notley. His tragic 1984 death in a small plane crash plunged even conservative Albertans into mourning. 

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, on May 3. Photo: Don Voaklander, creative commons

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, on May 3. Photo: Don Voaklander, creative commons

In the 2015 snap election, called before the official “fixed” election date, the NDP is running a full team of 87 candidates — 52 per cent of whom are women. An April 13 election poll found the NDP running strongly, with 30 per cent of decided voters, compared to 24 per cent for the Conservatives and 31 per cent for the remaining rump of the far right Wildrose Party. “NDP feel momentum building in Calgary,” the Herald reported on April 18.

Jim Prentice must be wondering what happened to the Progressive Conservative party’s iron grip on Alberta politics. Sometimes compared to visionary Premier Peter Lougheed, Prentice was the only federal Harperite to vote in favour of same-sex marriage. He was elected federally three times, in 2004, 2008 and 2010, with Harper as leader and held three different Cabinet posts, serving consecutively as minister of Indian Affairs, Industry, and the Environment. Then he stepped down, and returned to private life for four years, until he ran for and won the provincial leadership in 2014.

True, he inherited a party in disarray after the Conservatives unceremoniously dumped Alison Redford — and a one-resource economy in disarray, after the price of oil plummeted. This spring, he had to postpone his proposed budget a month to see which way the oil prices were blowing. Prentice did score a major coup when he recruited Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and eight of her Wildrose MLAs, getting them to cross the floor just before Christmas. That should have ended the Wildrose threat — but it didn’t. Instead, under new leader Brian Jean, Wildrose’s five remaining MLAs and 81 candidates are attracting nearly a third of decided voters — 31 per cent.

Read Penney Kome’s full column, Alberta poised to turn NDP orange as Tory grip on power withers, on Rabble.ca.  

Copyright Penney Kome 2015

Penney Kome is an author and journalist based in Calgary. 

 

Further reading:

Alberta election projection, ThreeHundredEight.com

Canada’s Mayor: Naheed Nenshi. By Brian Brennan, Facts and Opinions (paywall)

 

 

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Today’s election could change Greece — and Europe

Some 100,000 anti-austerity protesters demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in 2011. Photo by Kotsolis via Wikipedia, Creatiive Commons

Some 100,000 anti-austerity protesters demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in 2011. Photo by Kotsolis via Wikipedia, Creatiive Commons

For years the world has watched Greece, the cradle of democracy, implode in protests and economic decline. Indebted Greece has long been ill-served by its political and business leaders, and lately beholden to creditors bent on austerity. And today when the Greek people go to the polls in a general election —  if most pundits are right — not only Greece will change, but the ripples will be felt throughout Europe and globally.

Excerpt of an analysis by academic Theo Papadopoulos:

Syriza is poised to win by a large margin and this victory will end four decades of two-party rule in Greece.

Since 2010 – and as a result of austerity measures – the country has seen its GDP shrink by nearly a quarter, its unemployment reach a third of the labour force and nearly half of its population fall below the poverty line.

With the slogan “hope is coming” Syriza, a party that prior to 2012 polled around 4.5% of the vote, seems to have achieved the impossible: creating a broad coalition that, at least rhetorically, rejects the TINA argument (There Is No Alternative) that previous Greek administrations have accepted. In its place, Syriza advocates a post-austerity vision, both for Greece and Europe, with re-structuring of sovereign debt at its centre.

How significant is this victory for Europe and the rest of the world? Comments range from grave concerns about the impact on the euro and the global economy to jubilant support for the renewal of the European left. For sure, Syriza is at the centre of political attention in Europe.  Click here to continue reading  Why the Greek election matters.

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Help sustain independent, non-partisan and professional journalism by buying a $1 day pass or subscription to Facts and Opinions. An online journal of first-rate reporting and analysis, without borders, F&O is employee-owned, does not carry advertising, and is funded entirely by readers. Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. Receive free blog emails via the form on FRONTLINES. Thank you for your patronage. Please tell others about us.

 

 
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Why the Greek election matters

The Hellenic Parliament. Photo by A. Savin via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

The Hellenic Parliament. Photo by A. Savin via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

By Theo Papadopoulos, University of Bath
January 24, 2015

The Greek election on January 25 will be the most important in recent memory. If the pollsters are proven correct, Syriza is poised to win by a large margin and this victory will end four decades of two-party rule in Greece.

Since 2010 – and as a result of austerity measures – the country has seen its GDP shrink by nearly a quarter, its unemployment reach a third of the labour force and nearly half of its population fall below the poverty line.

With the slogan “hope is coming” Syriza, a party that prior to 2012 polled around 4.5% of the vote, seems to have achieved the impossible: creating a broad coalition that, at least rhetorically, rejects the TINA argument (There Is No Alternative) that previous Greek administrations have accepted. In its place, Syriza advocates a post-austerity vision, both for Greece and Europe, with re-structuring of sovereign debt at its centre.

How significant is this victory for Europe and the rest of the world? Comments range from grave concerns about the impact on the euro and the global economy to jubilant support for the renewal of the European left. For sure, Syriza is at the centre of political attention in Europe.

The origins of the party are to be found in a series of splits and consolidations involving various left-wing political groupings that, in one form or another, were originally related to the Communist Party of Greece. Syriza in its current form is a strategic coalition comprising a variety of political platforms that include social democrats, radical socialists and communists, environmentalists, anti-globalisation campaigners and human rights advocates.

Its original base comprised small business owners, academics and teachers with very little appeal among traditional working class voters. But the party’s current appeal is far broader, extending to the middle classes that were hit so hard by austerity measures (especially those associated with the public sector), as well as self-employed people, ex-small business owners, unemployed and underemployed people (especially youth).

Unlike other EU countries, these parts of the Greek electorate are not attracted to ultra-nationalist Eurosceptic parties. As traditional left-of centre voters they find attractive Syriza’s political narrative, a combination of anti-establishment discourse, mild left-wing patriotism, a vision that another Europe is possible and a vague hope for improving their economic and social condition.

Not all are convinced by Syriza, however. The voters attracted to far-right party Golden Dawn are traditional anti-communists who used to belong to the conservative New Democracy party or LAOS, a smaller nationalist ultra-right party.

Their appeal is among the lower middle classes (and some ultra conservative working class) who have been also hit hard by austerity. These voters have bought into the rhetoric that culprits behind Greece’s demise are the corrupt political elite and the large number of illegal migrants.

Golden Dawn’s popularity has fallen slightly in recent months, but it is still strong and according to recent polls it is likely to gain 6% of the vote. But the party is politically isolated, with its leadership in prison and no access to mainstream media. It is unlikely that will play any role in the forming of any government in future.

How likely is that Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s charismatic 41-year-old leader, will be “the Communist Harry Potter who could implode the eurozone”?

Despite the scaremongering that often surfaces in media reports, it is clear that the majority of Syriza representatives want to avoid having to take Greece out of the common currency. Despite some eurosceptic voices in the party, the leadership can hardly be characterised as anti-European. In internal discussions, various factions within Syriza have argued for introducing a national currency but these have remained, so far, a minority voice within the party.

Instead, the current leadership of Syriza has made numerous statements that it does not intend to destroy the euro or force Greece out of the eurozone. But they also mentioned that they are not willing to keep Greece into the eurozone at any cost. If Greece leaves the euro under Syriza, it will happen not because its leadership wants to but because it will be forced to.

This rather ambivalent message has served Syriza well both domestically and externally. Domestically, it alleviated the fears of many disaffected middle class voters who are very sceptical about a return to Drachma.

Externally, it indicates the spirit with which Syriza will approach any forthcoming negotiations with the troika (the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission). Namely, that Syriza does not share the same neoliberal economic policy agenda as Greece’s lenders – and certainly challenges Germany’s insistence on continuation of austerity – but it is willing to compromise over a mutually beneficial deal.

In terms of political rhetoric, Syriza has stated its political ambition is to change Europe as well as Greece. In what is admittedly a clever political move Syriza refused to accept the narrative of Greek exceptionalism when it comes to sovereign debt.

While attacking the incompetence and corruption of the two-party establishment that has run Greece since the 1970s, Syriza has framed the issue of Greek sovereign debt as part of the wider issue of European economic governance and, most recently, promoted the idea of a European summit on debt. In this way it opened a political space both for itself and other European political forces to change the dominant economic narrative in the EU.

Is the EU establishment going to respond? The announcement of new quantitative easing measures from the ECB marks a change in economic policy but according to chief Mario Draghi, Greece could be treated differently and any help will come with conditions. The months ahead will be tense and uncertain but one thing is for sure: nothing will be the same in Greek and European politics after Monday.

Creative Commons

Further reading:

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Help sustain independent, non-partisan and professional journalism by buying a $1 day pass or subscription to Facts and Opinions. An online journal of first-rate reporting and analysis, without borders, F&O is employee-owned, does not carry advertising, and is funded entirely by readers. Click here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. Receive free blog emails via the form on FRONTLINES. Thank you for your patronage. Please tell others about us.

 

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New Liberal leader in Newfoundland

BLOG-LIBERAL-Dwight-Ball__GSL6539

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland – The Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party elected Dwight Ball as their new leader following an election designed to make it easier for more people to participate. Ball had been interim leader since Yvonne Jones quit to run and win in a federal by-election last year. The sitting member of the house of assembly, from rural Newfoundland, fought off four other candidates, two sitting MHAs, also from rural Newfoundland, and two high-profile business persons from St. John’s.

In a broad reaching attempt to open up the party, attract new members and extend the democratic process, the party opened the Nov. 17 leadership election to the public allowing people to sign up and vote online, over the phone or at the convention in the provincial capital.  Considering the rise in Liberal popularity, it also meant the public had the opportunity to possibly vote for the next premier of the province directly.

The Liberals signed up 38,006 new party supporters during the five-month leadership race, and more than 23,000 of those cast a ballot. Party president Judy Morrow said the next two years are all about turning that list into a province-wide organization going into the next election. This Liberal race also featured a preferential ballot with each eligible voter ranking their choices, from first to fifth.

The party was nearly wiped out when millionaire businessman and lawyer Danny Williams became premier under the Progressive Conservatives in 2004, and at one point nearly lost official opposition status to the New Democratic Party, which has enjoyed major growth in the urban ridings in St. John’s. Since the confederation debates of 1948-49 the political divides in the province have been traditionally rural Liberal vs urban Conservative with the Liberals being the party that brought Newfoundland into the Canadian confederation and St. John’s conservatives in the merchant and clergy classes, opposing it. Other than this historical footnote and a few oddities along the way, there is very little difference, ideologically, between the provincial parties.

 The performance of Williams’ successor, Kathy Dunderdale, has been underwhelming since she took over the premiers’ seat following Williams surprise resignation in 2010. Her polling numbers have led her to the dubious position of the least-popular provincial premier in Canada. This, and her government’s lackluster performance and general disorganization, has meant a resurgence of support for the Liberal party again and set the stage for the next provincial election in 2015. Until a recent attempted palace coup inside the New Democratic Party, that saw two of its five caucus members depart to sit as independents, the NDP stood a good chance of making significant gains in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly.

With possible leadership changes in the NDP and PC parties in the coming year the stage is almost set for the next election in Canada’s most eastern province.

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