Monthly Archives: January 2010

Scott Brown – Winning the independent vote

Massachusetts – Where Independents Outnumber Republicans and Democrats

Paul Cellucci

GOP’s Scott Brown rode a wave of voter discontent

No Republican can win in Massachusetts without building a broad coalition of Democrats and Independents

As a Republican who also defied the pundits’ expectations by winning the governor’s seat in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, I was pleased, but not surprised, by Tuesday’s election results.

U.S. senator-elect Scott Brown may have driven his pickup truck around the state to campaign, but it was a wave of voter discontent that he skillfully rode all the way in on election day like a champion surfer.

No Republican can win statewide in Massachusetts without building a broad coalition of Democratic and independent voters. By travelling the state and listening to those voters, in their kitchens and storefronts, and yes, in front of Fenway Park on a frosty winter day – as his opponent Martha Coakley famously scoffed about – Mr. Brown heard the deep concern the citizens of Massachusetts are feeling about the direction of both the federal and state governments.

“I can stop it.” Think about those four words echoing across a debate stage and you know Scott Brown was listening to voters when he said them. Voters were deeply concerned about the national health care reform bill. It would have harmed Massachusetts’ vibrant health-care industry, cut Medicare for seniors and undermined the quality of care. And voters knew Massachusetts didn’t need it because the legislature had already passed a reform bill that brought insurance coverage to almost every citizen in the state, a reform Mr. Brown voted for when he served in the State House. Mr. Brown had, well, let’s call it the “audacity of hope,” to sign his name followed by a #41 – in other words, the GOP’s 41st vote – for enthusiastic crowds in the campaign’s closing days because voters wanted to send a message to Washington on health care: “Not so far, not so fast.”

I also think the state’s voters wanted to send two other messages to leaders in Washington and Boston: “Focus on jobs” and “stop spending.”

While they worried about keeping their paycheques, or worse, when their unemployment cheques would run out with no jobs in sight, Washington was engaged in partisan posturing and a massive expansion of government. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton won in 1992 by famously sticking with one campaign theme: “It’s the economy, stupid.” It still is.

Finally, America is a country at war. Voters were freshly reminded of that reality after a Christmas Day attempt to bomb an airliner over Detroit. Mr. Brown, a long-time member of the National Guard, didn’t mince words when he sided with many Americans in asserting that suspected terrorists do not deserve the same rights as American citizens. His opponent, however, was rightly admonished in the media for asserting there were no more terrorists in Afghanistan.

That was just one mistake in Ms. Coakley’s campaign. There were others, including the tactical error of bringing President Barack Obama to campaign with her last weekend. Generally, voters in special elections are active Democrats and Republicans. Given that Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one in Massachusetts, that was a huge advantage for Ms. Coakley. But the President’s visit and resulting media attention was like shining a huge spotlight on a sign for unenrolled voters, who make up just over 50 per cent of the state electorate: “Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!” And vote they did, in record numbers, for Scott Brown.

However, campaigns aren’t won because an opponent runs a bad one. Campaigns are won because the winning candidate runs a great one.

As Americans, and our Canadian neighbours, begin to see Mr. Brown on the national stage, they will see a strong, compassionate, effective and relentless leader. A great applause line on the campaign was this simple: “I’m Scott Brown. I live in Wrentham. And I drive a truck.” Voters understood that he knew exactly who he was and exactly what he believed. Even more simply put – they liked him.

So what does this mean for Congress, the Obama administration and incumbent politicians elsewhere in the United States? It’s a wake up call. The country’s voters are angry. They want change. They want non-partisan solutions to big problems facing America. They want government to live within its means. They want leaders focused on jobs. They want leaders willing to make tough decisions.

In short, they want the promise of “Yes we can” delivered upon. No matter the political affiliation, the election of Mr. Brown meant this: If elected officials show they “can’t,” or worse, “won’t,” the voters will.

Paul Cellucci is former U.S. ambassador to Canada.

Don’t forget the comments.

Vote Independent – Save Your Money!

Did you know  that the separatists in Quebec are funded through your hard earned money? A tax free democracy is possible  only by voting for an independent candidate.

Political parties dependent on public handouts: study

Kevin Libin,  National Post

January 23, 2010 Chris Wattie/Reuters

Calgary — The tax handouts for political parties created by former prime minister Jean Chrétien have relieved taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars, relieved the Bloc Québécois of having to fundraise, and cursed Canadians to a life of never-ending election campaigns — but getting rid of them, as the Conservatives want to do, is likely unrealistic, says a new study co-authored by a former Tory campaign manager.

The report by Tom Flanagan and David Coletto, to be released today by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, concludes that while the Conservatives continue to promise to eliminate the $1.95-per-vote allowance Elections Canada doles out to federal parties every quarter, any attempt to end the program is bound to leave party organizations financially “crippled,” without the ability to make up the lost funds through fundraising.

“Given all the difficulties, this may not be the time to try and replace the system,” says Mr. Flanagan, a political science professor who formerly served as Stephen Harper’s chief-of-staff and national campaign manager for the Conservatives. (Mr. Coletto is his PhD student.)

Although the Conservatives would suffer least were the subsidy cancelled (they earn the largest portion of their revenue from small, individual donations) – suggesting that their motive could have been partly animated by a beggar-thy-neighbour instinct – history shows Conservative fundraising support won’t always be so strong, Mr. Flanagan warns.

See FUNDING on Page A8

“Things change. You shouldn’t really design systems around temporary conditions,” he says.

One of Mr. Chrétien’s final policy flourishes in 2003 was to drain corporate and union donations from party politics, as well as tightly cap individual donations, replacing the money with public funds tied to each party’s vote-count in the previous election. “More public contribution to meet the requirements of every party is a very small price to pay in order to have a very substantial reform of political financing,” Mr. Chrétien said, arguing that his reforms – pushed through amid opposition from within his own caucus and little consultation with other parties – would “make all the political parties less dependent on contributions from the industrial sector” and avoid American-scale election spending.

Mr. Harper, once elected, added yet more donation restrictions under 2006’s Accountability Act. But the Tories remain opposed to the public allowance.

“We believe that political parties should support themselves with people who voluntarily donate to whichever party they wish to support,” Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Democratic Reform, said in August. A Conservative proposal to cut the funding in November 2008 galvanized opposition leaders into a coalition aimed at unseating the minority government.

While Mr. Chrétien’s policy advisor, Eddie Goldenberg, had promised that public subsidies under Bill C-24 would be revenue neutral when held up against the donations that parties would be forfeiting, in reality, all parties are collecting far more today from their Elections Canada cheques, even after inflation adjustments, than they ever did before.

Parties now collect, on average, roughly 50% more from public funds than they gave up under the new limits on corporate, union and large personal donations, the study calculates: The Bloc Québécois raised less than $1-million in corporate donations in the four years prior to C-24, but collected more than $12-million in public funds in the four years after.

“The Bloc has all this dough; they never have to fundraise again,” says Stephen LeDrew, a Toronto radio host who, as president of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2003, publicly battled Mr. Chrétien over the reforms he called as “dumb as a bag of hammers.”

Though the study examined potential alternatives to the quarterly allowance – a return to capped corporate and union donations, more generous tax write-offs for individual donations, and an American-style “check-off” system, allowing tax filers to indicate on their return whether they want to direct some public money to their favourite party – they all would fall considerably short of replacing the subsidies upon which political organizations now rely, the authors calculated.

It’s little wonder parties have become hooked on the subsidies to the point where removing them now could be devastating, Mr. LeDrew says. “Money is the mother’s milk of politics. Taxpayers’ money is the mother’s milk with a drop of scotch in it.”

As it happens, one unforeseen result of party organizations enjoying such a steady, lucrative cash flow, Mr. Flanagan says, is the emergence of a “permanent campaign” model, with party organizations now keeping their war-rooms open, keeping up voter identification campaigns, and increasingly running ads targeting opponents between election periods: a “campaign virtually all the time.”

Still, Duff Conacher, co-ordinator of the Ottawa-based advocacy group Democracy Watch, says that, compared to all other models, the taxpayer allowance is the best system for keeping moneyed influence out of politics. “There isn’t a more democratic way to do it,” he says.

And with no ready alternative, the Tories might be better to stick merely with adjusting levers in the existing system, Mr. Flanagan suggests: they could look at reducing the $1.95 per vote allowance, allowing small businesses to contribute, or readjusting tax credits for individual donations. “Changing it now is going to be harder than passing it.” But he’s firm that whatever alterations they have in mind should not be undertaken without a consensus among the major federal parties. “I think it’s bad policy to do any of these changes unilaterally. This is where the Liberals got us on the wrong track; the Liberals pushed through their changes.” The Conservatives have only followed suit. And while gaming the election system in their own favour may be any party’s natural instinct, Mr. Flanagan says, it’s no way to run a democracy.

National Post

Independent MP versus Party members

Independent MP versus Party members


Posted 1 year ago

An independent member of Canada’s Parliament has the same rights and resources as any other member but may have limited ability to influence decisions.

If elected as MP for the Haldimand-Norfolk riding, independent candidate Gary McHale will have a seat in the House of Commons and has the right to vote.

Because an independent is not aligned with a party, the MP is not as connected to things, said a Brock University political science professor.

Political party members have access to party-financed services including staff and research resources, said David Siegel in an interview with The Chronicle.

An independent will be given an office in the East Block and has the same funding and staff as any other member. He would not be discriminated against, he added.

How a back bencher can affect a vote will depend on the composition of the house, Siegel n the past it has been shown that one vote can be very important, he added referring to independent MP Charles Cadman.

In 2005, his vote in support of the Liberal budget prevented an election. He died of skin cancer a few months later.

According to a Feb. 2008 Toronto Star story, Conservative officials Tom Flanagan and Doug Finley, who is married to Diane Finley, met with Cadman two days before the non-confidence vote. In a joint statement, the two men stated that as campaign officials they could help Cadman with a Conservative nomination and campaign.

Based on a quote in Like A Rock: the Chuck Cadman Story written by Tom Zytaruk, The Star quoted Cadman’s wife as saying her husband threw two Conservative representatives out of his office after they mentioned a $1 million life insurance policy if he became a member of the party before the vote.

So if the new government is a minority, again a sole independent vote will be very important, pointed out Siegel. In the case of a majority, no one on the minority has much influence, he added.

As a member of Parliament, an independent has the ability to make a case for a meeting with cabinet minister and will be looked at differently than a request by an individual, Siegel said. While able to get the ear of a minister, an independent does not necessarily get what they want, he added.

During the daily 45-minute question period in House of Commons sessions, a protocol is followed, he explained. The leader of the opposition is always recognized first and then the speaker goes through the smaller party members. Any member can pose a question if they get the attention of the speaker, said Siegel.

All members of Parliament have a certain station so if McHale is elected he will be able to get more attention than the least member of the New Democratic Party, he noted. Also an independent does not have to follow a party line, he added.

Even so, Siegel was not sure how much of a pressing case an independent may be able to make. A member of the governing party will have more success with Cabinet especially if a riding is at risk, he added.

At a recent all candidate meeting, McHale said politicians are watching how the campaign is unfolding in Haldimand Norfolk and waiting for the decision. Siegel said the import of the riding is best illustrated by a visit from a party leader. They tend to show up in ridings where a sitting member needs a boost to their campaign, he noted.

When he heard that Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty visited Caledonia, he said that was fairly important given his status.

Siegel said Liberal leader Stephane Dion would come to a riding where a party member could be close to a win. Dion was expected to visit Brantford on Oct. 10.

The professor said it is well known that land claims are a significant issue in this riding and was not surprised to hear Dion or Harper had not visited Caledonia. “Party leaders don’t want to step on a mine field,” he noted.

In an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of independents and political parties, Siegel said an independent is one voice out of 308. Parties were formed as a way of organizing debate and when 50 or 155 have a position that carries more weight than one person, he stated.

Overall, the professor could give no examples of historic differences, other than Cadman’s vote, of significant impacts made by an independent.

At the Dunnville candidate meeting on Oct. 2, McHale debunked the impression that an independent could not accomplish much. By asking questions, he said he can draw media attention and bad press is something politicians fear. Once it is out, the government will act to avoid embarrassment, he p>Since he launched the Caledonia Wake Up Call website in the summer of 2006, McHale has done 500 interviews with media from across Canada. He told the audience he will make sure the riding’s issues will be heard across the country too.

In a retorting remark, NDP candidate Ian Nichols said people rarely see an independent asking a question because the cameras are no longer rolling at that point. Liberal candidate Eric Hoskins agreed with McHale’s success in getting media attention on Caledonia but added that it was different getting to the government.

Among the advantages of having a political party and a caucus is that one voice is turned into many and can influence the direction government takes, skins. He suggested that voters make a decision to keep McHale in Caledonia where he has an important impact instead of sending him to Ottawa where his impact will not be so great.

Allowed a rebuttal, McHale asked, “If the parties could have helped for two and a half years, where have they been?”

As for party politicians, Liberals are too worried about votes in another riding and don’t care about this riding, he added.

In his closing comments, McHale pointed out that Premier Dalton McGuinty and OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino mention his name often. “I’m an average person. If I wasn’t effective you wouldn’t have heard about me,” he stated.

Not about to let that go, Hoskins said McHale provided a convincing argument not to vote for him and that the independent candidate had a very good understanding of a specific issue.

In Siegel’s opinion, an MPs first obligation is to the country but with an interest in getting elected they also pay attention to the riding.

In an exploration of bail conditions, he was told by The Chronicle that McHale was charged with mischief that did not occur during a Dec. 2007 smoke shop protest. He was arrested later and released but bail conditions banned him from entering a large section of Haldimand County including Caledonia and York. Those conditions were lifted for the campaign but will be reinstated on Oct. 17.

Declining to comment on legal issues, Siegel spoke in generalities. In some ways, MPs are not like the average person because they can make statements on the floor of the legislature without worrying about libel and slander, he explained.

“It would be an interesting test to see if those kind of bail conditions could be against the MP,” he added.

As far as criminal records, they do not prevent a person from running for office and it is up to the people to decide, Siegel said.