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.

Liberals surge with soft-serve coalition deal

Uncertain voters were reassured by Justin Trudeau’s pledge to participate in a don’t-call-it-a-coalition with the NDP, unlocking a wave of pent-up support for Trudeau, easily the most liked of the leadership candidates.

NDP boss Tom Mulcair has been struggling to play the front-runner as the Conservatives injected devastating xenophobia into the race in Québec.  Polls have shown some sobering softening to the NDP’s numbers in the province as Mulcair has stood up too quietly for tolerance in the face of racist backlash against a court ruling against a headscarf ban at citizenship ceremonies.

The net result of this is a surge for the Liberal Party in the polls, which counter-intuitively could mean victory for the Conservatives.  Where votes are split between Liberals and the NDP, the Tories come up the middle, and the projections now imply a 123-seat minority Conservative Caucus, the first time they have been in striking distance of governing during this campaign, but still well under the combined totals for the NDP and Liberals.

Stephen Harper’s rallying cry against a joint NDP/Liberal government is a lack of democratic legitimacy, claiming a coalition is unprecedented in Canadian politics, and short of overt campaigning for a coalition no NDP or Liberal leader can claim to be Prime Minister.  In order to agree with this view of history, you would need to overlook a number of minority governments tided over with third party support, and forget that the first job of the Prime Minister is to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons.

Harper has had no qualms governing against the wishes of the majority of voting Canadians before, but as it is today, the election is set to go down that worst possible road, where the Tories will finish behind in the votes but a weak first in the seats. Harper has pledged not to resign in such a case, but would be easily forced out, and more than prepared to sow the seeds of discontent over the next 10 years, hypocritically incensed that his party was defeated by parliamentary tricks.

Which Heitkamp?

Jack Dalrymple is out, and suddenly everyone is falling in to run for Governor.

I’ll say personally that my dream candidate is Aneta farmer and former State Representative Ben Vig.  He’d be the next Governor Guy in a lot of ways.  There’s Jasper Schneider and a lot of good Leaguers who could put up a heck of a fight.  But of course, all eyes are on Heidi Heitkamp.

Heidi’s advantage is that she can run for Governor without losing her seat in the Senate.  The complication is that if she wins, we immediately get a special election Senate campaign.  So to even make this option feasible and responsible, Heidi needs to fundraise for two campaigns back-to-back.  And then who’s running for the Senate seat?

But Heidi doesn’t have to run herself to get a great candidate with charisma, good name recognition, and mass appeal.  Her brother Joel Heitkamp has been in the Legislature and runs a popular radio show that airs statewide.

Joel isn’t home free, of course; he’s going to lose that microphone in a hurry if he gets in the race, but it’s not the same as losing a Senate seat, and it’s highly likely that KFGO would put leftish Mike McFeely in the morning to keep listeners’ blood boiling.  I’ll call it a win-win.

Husting Nights in Canada

Campaign season has been on in Canada for three weeks, with a fixed election date in October.  The usual 34 days or so is instead a marathon 80+ day affair, which seems like nothing compared to the 24/7/365 of American politics, but is unprecedented in modern Canada.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s strategy appears to be damage control.  Scandals that are plaguing his party are wont to be forgotten over the long campaign season, and the Tory advantage with fundraising makes them far better equipped to weather a long-duration campaign.

As early polls have shown the New Democratic Party to be the favourite to replace the Conservative government, Thomas Mulcair’s impact has been muted, surfacing at appropriate moments to snipe at the embattled Harper record, but shying from the limelight.  By contrast, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party have hit the trail with a similar sort of energy that Jack Layton had when the NDP was a third-place party.

Atlantic

The NDP trails the Grits 44 to 35% (at 20% the Conservatives are not a huge factor).  There is the occasional loud independent candidate in Newfoundland, but the leaders have mainly been visiting Nova Scotia.

Québec

The NDP/NPD’s chances at a government require them to hold their unprecedented return, making this the most important province for them.  In the months leading up to election season, the NPD was showing weakness, but a poll from CROP of likely voters in Québec indicates a huge lead in NPD support in the key province at 41%.

No more than a sixth of voters have given the Conservative Party their support in recent polls, making la Belle Province mainly a battleground for the left.  At the moment, les Liberaux are taking a nosedive, and the comeback envisioned by the Bloc Québecois has stalled as sovereignty is polling at just 37%.  Voters appear to be accepting the NDP as the most credible voice of social-democratic policy, and therefore, the likely winner in the vast majority of Québec.

Ontario

Seat-rich Ontario is a three-way race.  Ontario is huge and has unique constituencies, but by and large this is a fight in the Toronto suburbs, with the Conservatives nominally polling just ahead of the NDP and Liberals, 32-31-30%.

Prairies

The Conservatives have a hefty lead, but the region is not particularly seat-rich.  Out of the gate, there was significant interest in the race in Alberta, following on the heels of a surprise NDP win in the provincial arena.  However, the most recent polling shows that the Tories are gaining support on their home turf.

Winnipeg has seen all the party leaders already, though Mulcair has been around a lot less than Harper and Trudeau according to CBC’s mapping project.

BC

The wildcard in the race is the Green Party, and nowhere in Canada is that more of a factor than British Columbia.  The party has enough support on Vancouver Island and the southern Mainland.  Party leader Elizabeth May claims that the bulk of their supporters would otherwise not participate in the election at all, but supposing that Green supporters still voted, just not for Greens and with a 50-50 split between the NDP and Liberals, there’d be at least 3 fewer seats for the Conservatives.

National Outlook

At the moment, the analysis suggests an NDP minority government.  With so much time left in the campaign, there are still many twists and turns to come.  There is some thought that the Conservatives are under-reported in polling in recent years; the current majority government was a surprise, looking solely at pre-election polls it was about 30 seats ahead of where everyone thought the Tories were.

Probably the most difficult scenario would be the Tories holding on to a nominal seat lead, perhaps 130, followed closely by the NDP and Liberals.  Would Harper place his brand on compromise legislation to retain the role of PM, or would the left cooperate and force him out, despite their softer mandate?

The Last Day

The last day of the legislature was not today, it wasn’t even halfway through.  It was the 26th of January, the last unrestricted day to introduce new bills.

I had the fortune to visit Bismarck that day and post a quick scoop.  That was not the only positive thing to say about the 2015 session, but it is among a select few.

As a result of this past election cycle and its inevitable result bourne out by the session, my trust in Bismarck has reached a new nadir.

I’m a little young to go all Jim Fuglie on you, but here goes:

Once, oh, about 2006 or so, the UND University Democrats had a meeting.  Gathered around the U-shaped table and Congressman Earl Pomeroy [who always had a place in his stomach for Italian Moon] were a number of my friends and fellow students.  As we went around the room introducing ourselves, we stated our majors.  One after another, “engineer,” “engineer,” “engineer,” “engineer.”

Earl was shocked — he had never seen so many engineers coming out as Democrats.

Engineers love to fix broken things.  We love being part of the solution.  And the Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008 gave me a lot of hope.  And also, it seems, a lot of expectations, which in hindsight seem ready-made to be dashed.

It is my eager hope that a Dem-NPLer can forge ahead and win a statewide race on an honest campaign with a clear policy platform, and make the centennial year of the NPL a proud one.  I hope I can write at least one or two stories about that wonderful person.

But I don’t think I can stay in North Dakota, and count on the Internet to magically bestow upon me a coworking version of the job I need.  I will have to go where the jobs are.

So on June 1, for a little more focus on what I ought to be up to most of the time, j5mc design, my occasional home of engineering, gizmos, and science, will be moving to the prime slot of j5mc.org.  And this site – North Dakota and Manitoba’s part-time MSNBC by text, C-SPAN by video, will be moving to news.j5mc.org.

Baesler, Rauschenberger, Weller, et al.

We’ve gotten TMI about Kirsten Baesler and her on again, off again fiancé, and what we’ve learned is that a violent or just short of violent confrontation isn’t criminal, especially if you were drinking at the time, and when our curiosity is sated with the fallacious notion that each person gave as good as they got, rather than the higher standard of two wrongs not forming a right, or the still higher, forgotten standard that public officers must behave above reproach.

What we have here is another Rauschenbergeresque case of papering over alcoholism, mixed with another Welleresque case of papering over domestic abuse. I’m sure all the parties involved feel some degree of shame, but at the end of the day you have criminals sitting in office, oddly adamant that whatever they did doesn’t undermine the public trust.

It is up to voters to hold such officials to account, and it is up to the Democratic-Nonpartisan League to be vocal in reminding voters about these tragic farces.

The tip of the iceberg

As a survivor of domestic abuse, I find Kristen Baesler’s behaviour chilling, especially as the police will hear about just the latest, just the worst of that tragic pattern of thought and action.

What do you do when struck by that rush of adrenaline, that flush of anger? Do you have what it takes to confront that gap between your expectations and reality? And if not – when you, the public servant, realize that you have committed a violent crime, do you first fear for your own pocketbook or for the integrity of the state? Do you have what it takes to resign?

Data privacy coming to NDUS

The League has filed a bill, SB 2360, to provide for student consent to the release of directory information, after an election season debacle that binspammed thousands of North Dakota university students with political leaflets.

Students will now have the choice whether to make their contact details public knowledge.

It’s an important privacy measure, especially since there’s an entire Big Data industry with lax standards waiting to turn every publicly posted address, number, or eyeball magnet into an outlet for all manner of unscrupulous, misleading, and/or annoying messages.

2015 health premiums mostly up

The new healthcare premium data is out, and Blue Cross Blue Shield is raising rates on North Dakotans by 12-15% [based on Grand Forks County premiums].  Sanford is up by about 7%. Medica’s plans are holding much steadier with 3% and -0.6% changes.

2015premiums

Most people using the healthcare exchanges receive subsidies. For the median North Dakotan, age 36, the subsidy level is determined by the second-cheapest Silver plan offered for 2015, about $296.17 monthly. If that’s more than 8% of your monthly income, Uncle Sam will chip in to bring it down to a fair rate. If you haven’t got insurance yet, or want to switch your plans, HealthCare.gov is the place to go.