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.

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?

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.

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?

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.