Tag Archives: campaign

It’s Not the Band I Hate, It’s Their Fans

By Jay Menard,

“It’s not the band I hate. It’s their fans.” Yes, I am gearing myself up for Sloan’s appearance this weekend at the Western Fair’s Beer & BBQ Show, but that’s beside the point.

That lyric also perfectly sums up the way I feel about some of the participants in our municipal campaigns. And the danger for the candidates is that they’re going to suffer from guilt by association.

London, especially on Twitter and other social networks including our local paper’s comments section, is easily likened to a playground. Whether it’s puerile name calling or taking their figurative ball and going home when they don’t get their way, we see a lot of the worst in discourse.

I had hoped during a municipal campaign things would change, but I haven’t seen it yet. Continue reading

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Wanted: The Truth Behind Mayor Wanted

By Jason Menard

The less I know about the person or persons behind the Mayor Wanted ad, the more I’m concerned.

First, a quick rundown. Earlier today, a job posting and subsequent Mayor Wanted Web site was launched ostensibly as a “job opening” for the position of City of London.

In and of itself, it was fine… until we got to the end.

What initially concerned me most, at first, was the “for community support email mayorwanted@gmail.com and we will connect you with Londoners who care deeply about the future of our city.”

I’m one of those Londoners. So I was interested. Who are these people? Who decides who they connect to.

And the answer — or lack thereof — is where I get nervous about how this information is being used. Continue reading

Responsible Government? Who Cares? Not Canadians

By Jason Menard

Awish Aslam booted from a local rally for Prime Minister Stephen Harper because of a Facebook photo? Who cares?

Ali Aref Hamadi asked to leave the same reception due to the presence of an NDP bumper sticker on his car? Who cares?

An election caused by the Harper government’s contempt of parliament charges? Arrogantly suggesting that Canadians don’t care about those same contempt charges? Previous elections called in a way that circumvented the very fixed-election-dates policy implemented? Partisan appointments to a Senate that he promised to make accountable? Promises to decentralize parliamentary power and an election campaign fuelled by promises of truth, accountability, and openness undone by an essential gag order on Ministers and a rationalization of power in the PMO?

Who cares? Continue reading

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

By Jason Menard

It’s almost time for the bell to ring, announcing the first round of this Parliamentary battle, and the only question that remains is whether the opposition will come out swinging or if they’re prepared to feel out the competition for a while and wait for the right time to deliver the knockout blow.

As the Conservatives and the opposition Liberals prepare to go toe-to-toe in the ring over issues like childcare and taxation it will be interesting to Canadians to see whether the Grits, still licking their wounds from the spanking they received in the recent federal election, are willing to throw down the gloves and get ugly in defense of their principles.

For the Liberals, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Allow such show-stoppers as the scrapping of the Liberal daycare plan in favour of the $100 per month per kid plan favoured by the Tories or the slashing of the GST and rollback of previous Liberal personal tax cuts, and the Liberals run the risk of being perceived as compromising their ideals. And for a party that’s reeling from the sponsorship scandal and a public that questions its integrity, this is one perception that must be shed.

Unfortunately for Canadians, the only way that can be done is for the Liberals to stand their ground, come hell or high water – or at least yet another election call.

Already, Opposition House Leader Ralph Goodale has started to hedge the Party’s bets, casting the burden of responsibility to its co-opposition members, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc. By stating that these two parties could conceivably prop up the Tories, even if the Liberal vote against these key measures, he’s effectively deflected the question of standing for one’s ideals two the smaller members of the opposition.

This will be a Parliament of perception and posturing. The NDP is on the verge of slipping from the image of being the King Maker to becoming the royal whore – hopping into bed with whomever’s in power to further their own agenda of power. If anything, the NDP should be philosophically more opposed to the Conservative agenda, especially when it comes to issues like social programs, yet they’ve been the most conciliatory speakers when it comes to consensus building in the House of Commons. The NDP runs the risk of alienating its very own traditional supporters and losing them to a newly emboldened Liberal Party – especially if Jack Layton supports a less-than-favourable Omnibus bill in order to maintain political continuity.

On the other side, Gilles Duceppe has to be a little worried about support in his own back yard. While talking the good talk about the idea of his party sweeping through la belle province, he has to be a little rocked by the fact that it was Stephen Harper who walked the walk and eroded his base of support by scoring huge gains in Quebec. Does he risk returning to the polls and testing his supporters’ patience for yet another election?

In the end, does this all embolden Stephen Harper even more? After a few missteps in the early part of his tenure, the ducks are all in a row for him to push through an aggressive first foray into this political battle. Does he gamble that the leaderless Liberals don’t have the stomach for jumping into a snap election? Does he hope that the question marks surrounding the other opposition parties mean that their preference will be to wait for a better time to act?

Harper has to decide what the more prudent strategy will be. Does he enter the House of Commons in a consensus-building manner and hope to negotiate what he wants, or does he seize the opportunity to make dramatic changes and enact a substantial – and controversial – component of his party’s political platform, trusting that the time isn’t right for his opponents to make a move. It’s a bitter pill that he’ll be forcing the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc to swallow – Harper just has to judge whether they have the stomach for it.

In the world of boxing, the boxer always has the edge on the puncher – but in the Canadian political ring, Harper has to opportunity to be both. He can come out swinging, landing the heavy blows, and out-strategize his opponents right from the opening bell. But the only way that works is if the opposition isn’t willing to step up and go toe-to-toe with the Conservatives.

The opening bell is about to ring. This is sure to be one fight to watch.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Time for Greens to Think Big!

By Jason Menard

Many of out there would dream of supporting a political party that’s fiscally conservative, socially progressive, and committed to improving our environment. Yet, even though one party professes to have those issues at the forefront of its platform, they are no more than an afterthought for Canadian voters.

And while the Green Party of Canada can blame voter apathy and the tendency to fall back to the tried and tested when push comes to shove, the fact remains that they have only themselves to blame. In the words of the immortal Elvis Gratton, it’s time for the party – and prospective voters – to “Think Big, ‘sti!”

For many Canadian voters, the Green Party is thought of as nothing more than a novelty act – akin to the old Rhino Party. And, while they’re not advocating the concept of flying naked to reduce the risk of terrorism or turning Montreal’s Rue Ste-Catherine into the world’s longest bowling alley, they get lumped into the same fringe candidate stew as the Marxist-Leninist, Marijuana, and Communist Parties of Canada.

Yet, last election, over four per cent of Canadians cast a ballot for this party’s candidates. Despite being lumped in with the so-called fringe, they did, in fact, receive over three times as many votes as the seven other registered fringe parties, independents, and non-affiliated candidates combined!

In fact, the New Democratic Party of Canada received just 3.7 times as many votes, and the Bloc only garnered 2.9 times as many votes, yet they’re recognized as legitimate contenders, earning 19 and 54 seats in the House of Commons respectively. Yet, this is not intended to be an argument for a more representative democracy – that’s another argument for another day. But it does bring up the question as to why are some parties regarded as legitimate contenders to the throne, while others are amusing afterthoughts.

The answer? Credibility, and the Green Party to date has blown it. In fact, one could suggest that their one true chance to make a mark on the Canadian political landscape is in serious danger of being wasted.

In the last federal election, the Green Party of Canada was able to win the votes of over four per cent of the Canadian population, which entitled them to federal funding as a party. They received $1.1 million from the feds but what have they done with it?

I’m sure they’ve put the money to good use, but they’ve failed to penetrate into the social conscious. Forget being in the leaders’ debates, how about having a significant number of Canadians knowing who your party leader is?

In a recent e-mail conversation with a local Green representative, this person apologized for their lack of polish, as they are a volunteer-driven, grass roots organization. But the time is now to reach for the sky. As they say, one must strike while the iron is hot, and with the funding received from their impressive showing, the Green Party needs to get the message out to the voters.

The perception remains that the Green Party is a one-issue party. Even worse, there is still the perception that these people are nothing more than raving tree-huggers chucking their fair-trade hats into the political ring only to further their own far-left-wing causes.

Yet, when you look at the platform, you realize that, despite an overriding goal of social and environmental responsibility, there is no clear definition of “sides.” They are neither left-wing nor right-wing, but rather searching for the right answers to each and every topic as it arises.

While other parties, such as the Marijuana and Christian Heritage parties, are defined and motivated by one issue, one would be hard-pressed to look at today’s Greens and think the same thing. Perhaps in the past the accusations were fair, but the party appears to have grown up and may, in fact, be a legitimate voice for a number of Canadians. The only problem is that they don’t seem to be getting their message heard.

And that’s a pity, because it’s a message that many Canadians would take to heart. Unfortunately, the game of politics isn’t won on ideas alone – reputation, consistency, and proven ability to lead all factor into the decision, and the Green Party has yet to prove that it’s ready to make the jump from the minor leagues.

So should anybody vote Green? Well, that’s a decision we all have to make based upon policy, the local candidate, and your personal beliefs. But at least they should be in consideration as a legitimate option – not just left on the fringe, stuck on the outside looking in.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Swinging for the Fences on a Decentralized Canada

By Jason Menard

Generally, in an election campaign, you win by promising to do more. However, Conservative leader Stephen Harper may have finally connected by, of all things, promising to do less as Prime Minister of Canada.

Of course, instead of hitting a home run, his blast went just to the outside of the foul pole – but at least he was swinging for the fences. The idea of provincial autonomy is good. The idea of Quebec representing itself in international organizations, like UNESCO, is not.

Decentralized government has been the buzz word in federal-provincial relations for the past few years. The idea of provinces having more autonomy on spending and resource management is a great deal for certain areas. Alberta, for example, would have no trouble with the idea of federal hands being removed from their pocketbooks.

And on a national unity level, increased provincial autonomy over matters of state would go a long way towards quelling separatist movement in the province of Quebec. That’s the whole basis behind the much-ballyhooed distinct society clause – recognizing Quebec and its predominantly French population as unique and worth preserving.

But how much is too much? Individual provinces representing themselves at International organizations, trade functions, and the like only serves to marginalize the country as a whole and reduce our ability to bargain from any position of leverage. Would the have and have not provinces sit around the same table, undercutting each other for the right to new contracts, simply because they only have their own interests at heart?

There still needs to be a strong federal presence in the global marketplace. The power of one clear voice outweighs that of 10 separate voices all clamouring to be heard over one another.

So if not on the global stage, where should the provinces earn the right to do more? Where it counts most – in their own backyards. Once upon a time, the federal government allocated lump sums of money to the provinces in the form of transfer payments, with which the provinces could do as they pleased. Need a little extra in health care this year? Fine. How about taking some of that public works pot and balancing out the education budget? Great!

But that transfer payment pot has been steadily shrinking. An increase in no-strings-attached transfer payments from the feds to the provinces would allow the provinces to meet the region’s priorities on a local level – not dictated by a federal overseer.

This country needs to be run like a business, with the provinces acting as franchises. A decentralized government at its best would oversee the national social programs, national trade, and the laws of the land, while leaving the more administrative duties to the provinces. As managers of their own regions, the provincial leaders would be able to take their federal funds and channel them towards the programs and issues of most demand for their constituents.

Overall, the various franchises will continue to work together to ensure that that brand as a whole – Canada – is stronger than the sum of its parts! You won’t see one McDonald’s bad-mouthing another franchise down the road, just to boost its own sales, so why would we want to encourage that type of behaviour in inter-provincial relations?

We need that federal presence to ensure we remain a country. All this talk from provinces such as Ontario and Quebec who complain that they’re either paying too much or receiving too little from the federal-provincial relationship miss the point that confederation isn’t an equal-in, equal-out proposition. If we decentralize to the point of provincial autonomy, we will lose this national support network and focus on Canada. We will become little enclaves, standing up for only our own best interests instead of that of other Canadians.

That’s not a Canada in which I want to live. If my overtaxed Ontario dollars are going to subsidize a less fortunate Atlantic region, then I can live with that. In the grand scheme of things, we want to make this country stronger as a whole – not just select regions of prosperity.

So while Mr. Harper’s first swing at a renewed concept of federalism may have resulted in a foul ball, a few adjustments in his stance and keeping his eye on the big picture may see him hit a home run with an idea for a new Canada.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The Right Vote Requires 20/20 Vision

By Jason Menard

With all the nation’s eyes – OK, with a handful of eyes (and some of them heavy-lidded at best) – glued to the televised debates between the Canadian political party leaders, one important component of any election decision continues to be lost in the front-page shuffle.

Each and every time we head to the polls we develop an acute case of hyperopia. Issues of national interest rightfully grab the headlines, but they shouldn’t affect us to the point where we forget about our own backyards.

It’s hard enough to get Canadians to the polls and we do so in woefully inadequate numbers. People feel distanced from the political process because many think that these issues on The Hill won’t affect them personally. But that neglects the fact that we don’t elect a Prime Minister – we elect individual candidates to represent our constituencies. Those numbers then determine who runs the show.

So why do so many people have trouble identifying the candidates in their own riding, much less than what they actually stand for? We can identify basic themes from the national campaign that filter down and affix themselves to the local candidates, but I’d hazard a guess that the vast majority of voters have only a sketchy idea of what their individual candidate stands for in their very own riding.

Although this is a federal election, its foundation is built on the local. And that’s where we, as responsible voters, must start to build the rationale for our decision when it comes time to mark our ballot.

Unfortunately, there are rarely televised debates between candidates in a riding. More often than not, they’re running their campaigns independently of each other, preferring to leave the cross-party sniping and broadsides to the captains of their respective political ships. But the key thing that we as citizens must realize is that while each candidate generally falls in line on the big issues of national importance, there are local issues unique to their riding that can have a direct impact on how you live your day-to-day life.

And that’s where your vote truly matters. When it comes to elections, we’re all pretty much selfish people wondering what’s in it for us – and that’s why campaign promises are made. But nowhere are you more directly impacted than by the decisions and ideas put forth by the person vying to be your local Member of Parliament.

In this day and age, there’s really only one reason why someone can step up to a ballot box completely ignorant of their local candidates’ beliefs and platforms – laziness. Almost every candidate – and certainly those of the big three parties – have Web sites that offer the meat of their party platform. But those sites are also spiced with the regional flavour of local issues.

As well, most candidates are more than happy to answer your questions – or at least have one of their minions do it for you. A phone call to a riding will be returned, an e-mail will be responded to, and a public photo-op/meet-‘n’-greet is only a day away!

There’s a reason why when we put our addresses on things we write the city, the province, and the country – it’s because all three levels impact us. So too should these distinctions carry equal weight in an election campaign. To vote based solely on a broad federal platform ignores your local needs. And, conversely, the overriding philosophy of a federal policy will have some weight on the choice of a local candidate.

This election campaign has been described as choosing the lesser of all evils. But it only has to be that way if we ignore our local constituencies. By talking to our local candidates and finding out where they stand on the issues that directly affect us, we are creating a situation wherein we’re choosing the best person for our own, personal situation. And really, isn’t that what an election is about? We are choosing a person to represent US in Parliament, so why wouldn’t we want that person to accurately reflect the riding, its beliefs, and its unique situation.

In the end, this election is about much more than Gilles Duceppe, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, and Paul Martin – it is about the hundreds of candidates vying for the right to represent individual ridings. And we can’t let the bright lights of the federal stage blind us to the issues affecting us in our own backyards.

To make the right choice we need to restore balance in the way we look at our candidates, because a myopic perspective is no better than suffering from hyperopia. It may mean a little work, but the right answer for all of us will be easier to see with 20/20 vision.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved