Pipeline protests in DC, NYC

A very hearty crowd came to Washington, DC today from the Standing Rock Oyate in North and South Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Along with them was a 140,000 signature petition that was given to President Obama decrying the proposed pipeline. The event, hosted by ReZpect Our Water as well as the Oceti Sakowin Youth & Allies, will host another protest tomorrow in New York City’s Union Square at 3pm ET.

The death of the League is greatly overstated.

I did what I could to prompt the Dem-NPL leadership to note the centennial of the Non-Partisan League.  Clearly, last year’s festivities weren’t enough for Lloyd Omdahl, but this year is chugging along with a celebratory dinner or movie showing here or there.  It’s not the rip-roaring “we’re back” I was hoping for, but the NPL brand isn’t going anywhere, it’s part and parcel of the Progressive experience in North Dakota.

It would be nice, for example, if the state law mandating political parties to terminate their legal name with “Party” — something that was not the League’s idea to be sure — was rolled back.  But right now, it’s kind of a weasels-guarding-the-chicken-coop situation on that.

And among other things, NorthDecoder.com is back online.  I might as well blog again a little bit too.

Uphill battle for Selinger’s NDP

Manitoba’s election is well underway, and the polls are not looking good at all for the NDP government, which has served for nearly 20 years under Gary Doer and Greg Selinger.

While the NDP can take a lot of credit for progress on infrastructure, at least one major project, the third bipole, was subject to overly protracted debate, and rerouted at considerable cost, as the government struggled to balance its constituencies of clean energy and respect for aboriginal land rights.

Infrastructure was the main excuse NDP leader Greg Selinger used to raise the PST 1%, returning the overall sales tax in Manitoba to 13%, without a vote, as was previously required by law.  Changing the law to remove the plebiscite at the same time as you raise those taxes, is, at best, bad public policy.  It has proven to be the central flamethrower Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives have used in the runup to the campaign, and even cracked the unity of the NDP themselves, with a backbench revolt lead by Theresa Oswald.

Selinger narrowly avoided defeat in a major shakeup that required a leadership race to settle, and even then, it left the party looking fractured, with a governing core plagued with patronage.  The lack of turnover also prevented the party from presenting a fresh face to the province going into the hustings.  The NDP still has some star candidates, like former CBC broadcaster Wab Kinew, that generate excitement in core constituencies.

There’s still the X-factor of the provincial Liberal Party.  It’s been little more than a bit player in Manitoba for decades, but the recent surprise victory of Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals has generated momentum to send the MLP above the NDP in some recent polls.  Rana Bokhari is a definite dark horse to be the next premier, but will certainly spoil what little the NDP planned to hold onto.

Last Dash for 2016 Healthcare

You can still sign up for health insurance today and tomorrow.

Among the notable changes in Health Insurance in North Dakota, Medica is now managing a special Altru-branded plan in the Altru Health System region, which is the cheapest plan for residents of Grand Forks County.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota has reduced consumer choice, now offering just two Silver Plans, down from four.

Premiums are up this year, with the second-cheapest silver plan in Grand Forks County now running $328.58 a month (individual 40 year old), vs $310.05 last year, a 6% jump.  BCBSND subscribers who were on the cheapest BlueCare plan last year have to eat a 12% hike, now paying $375.18 for fixed co-pays, or a hair less, $362.47 for paying the deductible plus 20%.

RFO in cards for Aboriginal Affairs

As Justin Trudeau is set to divide the spoils around the 4th of November, Robert-Falcon Ouellette is being touted as a possibility for Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.  Trudeau is rumoured to be considering one of several native MPs for the role.  Ouellette is a rising star in the Liberal Party, having recently upset the NDP’s Pat Martin in Winnipeg Centre. RFO finished third in the race for mayor of Winnipeg last year, despite winning the j5mc endorsement.

The Green Party’s Elizabeth May likely will not appear in Cabinet as Environment Minister, though along with the provincial premiers, she has a guaranteed position with the Canadian delegation to the upcoming Paris Summit. The Green Party showing in the polls was down significantly, to 3.7% from its usual levels of 8 or more.

Also, Candice Bergen is running for interim leader of the Conservative Party. Bergen, who represents the Portage-Lisgar riding, was a junior cabinet member in Harper’s cabinet and a major force behind the end of national rifle registration. Bergen will face off against three others seeking to lead the party caucus. The scale of the race is already unusual, as interim leaders are often acclaimed.  Will the winner will end up staying on as permanent Leader of the Opposition?

United Nations Day

Perhaps because the International Peace Garden has struggled to finish a conference centre suitable for the occasional negotiation, the United Nations remains the foremost headquarters for global diplomacy. It began with a treaty in San Francisco, signed on this day in 1945, and the hope was to build a lasting institution for global peace.

When viewed through the lens of its flashy New York Headquarters, the UN gives a not-entirely-inaccurate impression of being byzantine and ineffective. Even allowing for its successes, has to assign it some responsibility for failing to solve its own problems, let alone the world’s.

To start, there’s a democratic deficit in the UN that ought to be resolved by a planetary parliament. Without any clear mandate or enforcement powers, General Assembly resolutions have all the impact of a wet paper towel.

The UN is incapable of levying even the sparest of taxes — say, 0.7%, to support its development goals in impoverished nations. It is not anywhere near the heartbeat of global trade; it is in fact totally bypassed by regional blocs, the WTO and other multiparty agreements.

The United Nations Security Council is a fossilized remnant of the 1940s global power structure. Done over again today, it would not be Britain or France with Security Council seats, but Germany, India, Brazil.

And yet, there is no organization that is doing more to help refugees, the malnourished, the undereducated, the war-torn. No other NGO matches the scope of its humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts. The UN is at present, doing its best, playing second fiddle on a shoestring. Whether its next 70 years are glory or infamy depends entirely on how the global community repairs this impressive international institution.

Be Angry.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw in my own pep talk now that John Oliver has everyone in a tizzy about our fair state.  What are our state’s opposition parties to do, if there’s a groundswell of resentment surging?

First Strategy: Run as the NPL.

If North Dakotans can’t find anything to love about the party of Great Satan Barack Obama bin President, then it’s time to rebrand. Let’s be fair, as much as the carpetbaggers and consultants want to overlook the NPL dangling at the end of our League’s name, we need only look to Minnesota’s DFL to see that an alternate brand that has a distinct local agenda can have great success.

It’s also urgent; old-timers like Lloyd Omdahl are dejectedly declaring the death of the NPL during what should be its celebrated centennial.  2016 is the last realistic shot to rehabilitate the history-making Nonpartisan League into a modern and memorable political force.

Second Strategy: Let Doug Burgum win.

There’s a lot of talk about Doug Burgum wanting to be governor. He wouldn’t be the first businessman to buy the office, and he just might be responsible enough to clean house. Unless Wayne Stenehjem really wants to do his party a big favour, even the Republicans aren’t going to put up a decent fight for 2016. It’s not time for the League to do so either.

A “Democrat” might kick themselves for not running a candidate. But when you’ve returned your state organization to its NONPARTISAN roots, it becomes a lot easier to endorse or letter-of-support an independent candidate, yes?

Third Strategy: Libertarians running with the NPL for the Legislature

North Dakota’s long-suffering Libertarian Party gets about 4-5% of the vote. That’s enough to swing at least a couple districts. If the NPL reached out, I bet it could convince a few Libertarians to run on the League ticket for 2016, if the Libertarians won’t nominate a ticket in those races. If six or seven Libertarians get elected (along with twelve or fourteen Leaguers), that’ll put the Libertarians close to their natural level of support, and the kicker is it’d be great for democracy in North Dakota.

There will doubtless be some partisan challenges in the resulting chambers, but I’d take a new order over the current one any day.

Finally: Be Angry.

Republicans ruined this state and won’t punish criminals.  It’s time to hammer that home all the time, every time, everybody, everywhere.  Get on message and on the road, Leaguers.  We’ll stick, we’ll win!

NDP Leader needs some food for thought

In an interview with CBC’s As it Happens, Thomas Mulcair has continued to play-act as front runner, and refused to take responsibility for his party’s attack ads targeting the Liberals, even though it is clear that the NDP’s numbers aren’t just softening, but tanking.

The NDP has slid so far in Québec that the Bloc is now projected to win seats, and with the polls sliding toward the Liberals so quickly and dramatically, tactical voters and bandwagoners are not going to go orange. Unless Mulcair has some magically effective GOTV operation, it doesn’t look good for the New Democrats, who might end up where they’ve always been, third place with just 80 seats.

What’s worse is that Mulcair’s tone on a coalition has snapped back to a blame game with the Liberals over the 2008 fiasco, a far cry from where the debate was just two weeks ago, when Mulcair and Trudeau were converging on an informal deal.

Mid-campaign, Mulcair was charged with being heavy-handed as party caucus leader, something that only seems to echo as he avoids any compromise so late in the election. Now that Tom isn’t sure he’ll end up on top in a coalition, he’s not a fan of the idea any longer, apparently.

That’s not the result Canadians want.  Tom should spend his Thanksgiving weekend letting someone else carve the turkey, and eat some humble pie along with his tortière, or Steven Harper is still going to be pouring the gravy for the next five years.

Wrigley affair partner outed

Drew Wrigley’s affair partner is reportedly being divorced, according to The Prairie Blog.  PB stopped just a hair’s breadth short of announcing the name of Wrigley’s partner, which was implied to be Melissa Pinks, a businessperson from Bismarck.

News of the Wrigley affair has dominated the month of September in North Dakota politics, culminating in his announcement that he will not run for governor.