Nomination minefield

Party candidate nominations are inside ball. Most people don’t have party memberships in any party and they only pay attention to candidates during an election period. Nominations occur outside of their radar until and unless there is something controversial in the race. 

Being an internal sort of race, a party nomination can and often does become heated as a political civil war can form within a constituency. No battle is more intense than one between former allies. Some constituencies never recover from nominations as divisions from dirty and personal races run too deeply for the association to come together as a functional unit after the race is over. 

Despite all that, nominations are still the best and only manner to date for parties to choose candidates with member participation. 

Nomination winners are not always those who best represent the membership of the party much less the electorate at large. A nomination race is based on who can sell the most party memberships and best get them out to vote when the time comes. Nothing more, nothing less. Successful nominees are those who can gather a group and organize them. Those groups are often based on a cultural or religious basis which gives a good base from which to draw supporters. There is nothing wrong with people organizing to win nominations in this way of course. They are using their existing strengths. It has to be kept in mind however that candidates who won in this manner were often propped up by a base that is not actually representative of the party. 

The only nominations that go trouble free tend to be uncontested ones. The only nominations that tend to go uncontested are ones in constituencies where a party likely has no chance of electing a member to the legislature. 

Right now, the United Conservative Party is the hands down favorite in most constituencies outside of Edmonton. That is why the vast majority of the nomination races have been contested and hundreds of aspiring nominees have been applying for the job. Due to the volume of applicants and the high stakes of the races, some nomination eruptions are expected and inevitable. 

Parties such as the Alberta Party have pretty much no hope of winning any seats. They are simply trying to find rational contestants to run for them in the general election thus acclamations are common and what few races there are tend to be pretty subdued. It spares them of nomination flare ups. 

The NDP have many seats in play but are a top down party that discourages open nomination races. Hell, one can’t even find information on their website directing folks in how to even apply for the job much less encouraging them. Because of this, nomination aspirants for the NDP run into the dozens rather than hundreds as with the UCP. While being terribly undemocratic, it does spare the NDP the untold grief of managing open nomination races. 

Partisan folks and media members love jumping upon nomination race issues in hopes of tearing down parties that they don’t care for. It is cheap politics but it can be effective as many folks in the public don’t understand just how little a nomination can actually represent a party as a whole. 

The latest nomination mess is a pretty striking one as an image was released of a group of men violently attacking a man on the ground. Apparently this attack was motivated by a UCP nomination race in Northeast Calgary. 

This is politics at its ugliest. No party condones or encourages these sort of actions. That won’t stop the unprincipled from trying to claim as much though. 

Northeast Calgary is a political nightmare when it comes to politics and it has a long history of dirty politics on every level. There is no sense beating around the bush, that part of the city is dominated by people of South Asian heritage and that culture comes with an acceptance of dirty political play that we are not accustomed to. Many in that part of the city view rules as things to be stretched or broken at any and every opportunity and they will do so without hesitation. They see strict adherence to party rules as a sign of weakness. This is not true of every person of South Asian decent of course but anybody claiming that this sort of political attitude is not dominant is simply being disingenuous. It will take time to shed those old attitudes but for now, it leaves NE Calgary as a political hornets nest. 

In 2011 I was on the Wildrose Party provincial executive while the nomination race in Calgary McCall was called. Four candidates vied for the position. They were Deepshikha Brar, Khalil Karbani, Braham Luddu and Grant Galpin. Astoundingly almost 6000 memberships were sold by the first three mentioned candidates within weeks. This is well beyond what is normal and we looked into things. We burned up the phone lines and literally sent people to hundreds of doors to check the veracity of these memberships. It was immediately apparent that cheating was occurring. Countless memberships had been sold to people who didn’t exist. All of the candidates aside from Grant Galpin had duplicate members in their list as they unwittingly shared lists and signed people up without their knowledge. We covered our bases carefully and did what we had to do. We disqualified the three proven cheaters. The optics were still terrible. We punted the three brown people and kept the one white one. What else could we do though? 

This was hardly unique to the Wildrose in Northeast Calgary. Alison Redford had to deal with a Calgary McCall nomination race that had nine candidates and devolved into death threats. 

Federal Liberals, the old Reform Party and the contemporary CPC still wrestle with trying to keep the scandals and cheating to a minimum in Northeast Calgary ridings. Its just a political reality in that part of the province that every party will have to deal with. 

Are nominations important? Of course they are. Should we pay attention to them? Of course we should. Should we jump up and down and try to paint entire parties when a race goes off the rails? Not if we want to be honest about things. 

There is no perfect system but this is the best we have right now. Lets not waste the hysterics on nomination races that have little to do with the attitudes of the parties as a whole and save it for the general election when they truly contest for the seats of power. 

Empowering Maxime Bernier

Bernier’s departure from the Conservative Party of Canada was bitter and from most appearances self-serving. The timing spoke to a planned effort to cause the most disruption possible for Scheer as he began the CPC convention in Halifax. There is little doubt as well that much of Bernier’s motivation is driven by sour grapes after having been handed a leadership loss to Scheer by the narrowest of margins. Some second place finishers can handle remaining within the party to try again another day and some simply can’t. We don’t need to wonder where Bernier lands now. 

Scheer covered pretty much all of the above when he responded to Bernier’s exit. 

Things could have been left at that. A man was embittered and he parted ways with the party in an explosive way. Life goes on and the party moves forward. Unfortunately the Conservative Party of Canada then moved into their convention and seemed to almost purposely work to prove some of Maxime Bernier’s contentions correct.

 Christopher Bataluk summed it up excellently in the tweet below:

What I am getting at is the party’s unwavering support for Canada’s Soviet style supply management system due to Andrew Scheer cutting a deal with the dairy cartel in order to win the party leadership. 

It is no secret that Scheer sold his political soul to Canada’s supply management lobby in order to win the leadership with a tiny margin.  Scheer even gallingly joked about the deal at the press gallery dinner this year as he guzzled milk for the crowd. 

Look, I understand how politics works and understand that deals get cut. 

At some point though a leader has to choose between well funded minority lobbying interests and the interests of the party and the nation. The only principle we are seeing out of Scheer right now is that when Scheer gets bought, he stoically stays bought. 

Supply management is undoubtedly one of the worst and outdated economic policies in Canada. There is utterly no reasonable defense of the policy from a fiscally conservative perspective and any conservative trying to defend the policy is either delusional or to be frank, full of shit. The dairy cartel has been incredibly effective in lobbying for this rotten policy that rips off all Canadians (particularly low income ones) to the point where a “conservative” leader won’t even show shame in protecting it. 

A proposal to debate ending support for supply management was to be presented to the Conservative Party of Canada’s membership yesterday. The party blatantly killed the proposal before members could even debate it much less vote on it. 

I am familiar with these tactics. I was VP of policy with the Wildrose Party for multiple terms. If we wanted to make sure that a controversial policy didn’t actually make it to the floor this is exactly the sort of thing we would do. It gives the impression that the policy was addressed while not actually letting it get into open discussion where there is potential for embarrassment. We did this with policy proposals that were crazy or offensive however, not with ones contrary to the very core of conservative principles such as supply management. 

The bottom line is that if the CPC wanted to let members debate supply management at their convention, they would have. They purposely buried the proposal despite it being a big news item lately which is causing our entire nation untold grief with NAFTA negotiations. 

The only reason to bury this debate was solely to protect Scheer’s deal with the Canadian dairy cartel. 

Within hours of killing any debate on supply management, Scheer was in attendance with his masters at a reception. They surely patted him on the head and promised more dollars for future campaigns. 

It is through this sort of action that Bernier will not be going away. It is in proving that there is intellectual dishonesty within the party that Bernier will be able to capture supporters and donors with his fledgling party. Bernier could have been shepherded into the political sunset but instead Scheer chose to empower him through his dogged support for the lobby that bought his leadership. 

No, I do not support Bernier nor am I calling for people to get behind his new party. I am however disgusted with the behavior of the CPC under Scheer right now and through these actions he very likely ensured that we will have another term of Trudeau. 

Let’s face it, Scheer has demonstrated all of the political charm and hype of an over ripe eggplant so far. Most of the nation couldn’t pick him out of a lineup and his chances of dethroning Trudeau next year were already rather limited to say the least. If Scheer is to win the next general election, it will be by the most narrow of margins. That will be pretty much impossible if Bernier is taking 10% or so out of him in select ridings throughout Canada and Scheer just gave Bernier a great wedge issue to work with. 

We can and should be upset with how Bernier has done things. 

We shouldn’t forget however that through his unwavering loyalty to the dairy cartel that Scheer has turned Bernier from a lone malcontent into a potential leader of a spoiler party in the next election. 

Scheer could have defused this by simply letting members debate the policy. If supply management went down, he could shrug and say it was the will of the members. 

Unfortunately Scheer chose instead to remain firmly bought. 

The libertarian conundrum

There can be no political ideology that is more inherently self-defeating than libertarianism. 

We are seeing a growing number of people who identify as libertarians as they shed outdated social conservative values of the traditional right along with rejecting bloated and intrusive government of the traditional left. 

This trend among gen-x was recognized in the 90s and they were labelled as “South Park Republicans”.

Libertarian wings of main stream parties have been formed and in some cases have been quite influential for short periods.

Libertarian parties have sprouted up like daisies but tend to remain mired within the political hinterland. 

So why the hell can’t libertarians get anywhere politically? 

Unfortunately the very nature of libertarians makes them the least likely to succeed in a partisan system. How the hell do you organize self-styled individualists into any sort of working group? 

Living and working under a central authority is utterly contrary to the very nature of a libertarian. Staying silent and taking one for the team is tough if not impossible for a libertarian. They can hold it together for awhile, but eventually the cracks will show and a blow up is almost inevitable. 

Maxime Bernier and Derek Fildebrandt were both recognized as libertarian thought leaders in their respective parties. Both rose to prominent positions with high expectations. Both flamed out and have marched off to form their own parties. 

There were contributing factors in the cases of both Fildebrandt and Bernier aside from their libertarianism which led to their departure from their parties of course. Fildebrandt created a lot of grief for himself with some poor personal judgement calls and Bernier is clearly still holding some personal sour grapes after losing the party leadership by such a tight margin. Non libertarian types would be able to suck it up and move on within the party more easily.

Individualists chafe and get bitter under party discipline.  That can and does lead to some pretty rough breakups when they part ways. 

So what can libertarians do? 

I do wish I had a simple answer for that. I do see libertarianism as the way of the future and betterment of us all as the state grows ever more intrusive and malevolent. I am just not sure how to accomplish it. 

The party system is essential whether one likes it or not. No major wave of ideological change will come without a party driving it and either coming into power or holding the balance of it. So how does a purely libertarian party come into power? It doesn’t. It simply won’t happen. 

I am not saying that there is no role for libertarian parties. I ran in the last federal election for the Libertarian Party of Canada after all. Tim Moen has been doing a fantastic job in holding things together with that volatile bunch and has been promoting both the party and the ideology excellently. I don’t know where he gets the patience and energy from. 

I was under no illusion that I would win or even threaten the seat of the winner in the last general election. My goal was to use the electoral platform to ensure that libertarian questions were asked and answered and I think I did a good job of that. Issues such as supply management or increasing private involvement in health care provision will never even be brought up without a libertarian candidate forcing the issue. The reality that has to be faced though is that libertarian parties exist to promote ideas rather than win elections. 

Another partisan challenge for libertarians is that they can almost never get along with other libertarians. I gave up on most online libertarian discussion groups as they inevitably devolve into categorizing themselves into sub groups and begin fighting with each other. Anarcho-capitalists, minarchists, libertarian socialists (still can’t wrap my head around that one), geolibertarians, classical liberals, objectivists and the list goes on and on as new sub categories are invented. Fervent adherents to any of those sub categories will invariably declare that folks who follow any other sub category are clearly not “true libertarians” and will stomp out of the room. 

Pure libertarianism (whatever that may be) won’t be coming along any time soon. Principles of libertarianism can be promoted and embraced by administrations though. Libertarians just have to learn to accept incrementalism.

People who can manage to bite their tongues and take one for the team can and should promote libertarian principles within mainstream parties. It is a tough role for any individualist but it certainly is one that benefits us. 

Those more dedicated to full on individualism should stick to promoting libertarianism through discussion and activism. They will only cause damage to organized parties if they try to work from within. 

It is more fun working as an individual anyway and if you do it right you can make a point and influence policy. 

For example, the Notley NDP thought it was a good idea for the state to manage party nomination contests. I have been having a great time ever since as an aspiring NDP nomination contestant in rubbing their noses into their own shitty legislation while exposing it for the crap that it is.

I would not be able to pull such stunts were I constrained by a party however. It took me awhile to recognize where a nutty libertarian such as myself belongs and I have been embracing it. I hope that more libertarians find their comfortable roles rather than taking a scorched earth approach to parties in the future. 

Death by regulation


The writing is on the wall and the numbers are distressing to say the least. Foreign investment is fleeing from Canada and we are becoming an international investment pariah.

Sadly, this trend should not surprise anybody as our national regulatory environment for large projects in the energy industry went from onerous to outright obscene. The Trudeau government is obsessed with adding unreasonable requirements for new business ventures and they have pushed things to the tipping point. Private enterprise can no longer do large projects. We are losing billions though lost development and price markdowns due to lack of infrastructure.

I spent four years working in the Arctic back in the early 2000s. The area was booming as people trained and looked forward to development of a local industry. There is a massive oil and gas deposit in the Mackenzie Delta that would bring billions if not trillions into Canadian coffers over generations if we could only get the product to market. We spent decades and countless dollars in drilling wells and acquiring data in the North in anticipation of a pipeline which would run a relatively short distance from Inuvik down to Norman Wells in the Northwest Territories. There are literally thousands of capped wells just sitting up there waiting to be brought into production.

Pipeline discussion began in the 1970s. In the early 1990s cost estimates for such a pipeline ran around $1 billion. After nearly two decades of studies, permit applications, hundreds and hundreds of public hearings and infrastructure investments into the Mackenzie Delta area, the projected cost for a pipeline had ballooned to an astounding $20 billion dollars.  Regulations had utterly destroyed the viability of the line.

The Mackenzie Valley pipeline consortium finally, formally pulled the plug this year after 40 years of wasted time and billions of dollars. Inuvik, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk now languish as impoverished communities dependent on government welfare with no realistic local industries to develop. The hopes that they had for a prosperous future died when the pipeline did. There is no viable fishery, forestry or mining in that area. Just a little tourism and some sustenance hunting. Many will end up having to move down south to make a living while leaving behind one of the richest energy deposits on the planet.

It was in watching a government employed lawyer spouting off on twitter about how it was natural market conditions as opposed to regulation that killed the Energy East pipeline project that I found inspiration to write on this issue. Not enough people understand just how much our bloated regulatory environment harms our energy industry. Misinformation from parasitic, taxpayer employed lawyers who thrive on an ever increasing bureaucracy spreading self-serving pap about what does or doesn’t harm industry isn’t helping.

Massive LNG projects have vanished while pipelines in all directions are either cancelled or stalled while every level of government adds to the hurdles already killing development and investment in Canada.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is the last one left and few people feel much confidence that it will be built. This isn’t even a new pipeline, it is an expansion upon an existing line which has safely operated since the fifties. Rather than cut regulation and streamline the process, the Trudeau government bought the pipeline project before it could be cancelled. Just today we are hearing that the cost of the pipeline has gone up by almost $2 billion. 

How on earth is this or any other large project going to get done until and unless we truly cut and gut our regulatory burdens? In British Columbia alone, the Trans Mountain line needs 1187 permits! 1187!

That is just one aspect and one level of government. How could so many permits possibly be required? How many studies? How many applications? How much time to wait for approvals? How many revisions get called for? By the time the last permit gets approved, the first ones will have expired. It is nothing less than madness.

Today we see a government in shock as Saudi Arabia cuts ties to Canada over a tweet. Some are trying to dismiss things by pointing out that Saudi Arabia only supplies 10% of Canada’s oil imports. 10% of an entire nation’s oil imports is no small amount folks. The vast majority of Canada’s imported oil is coming from the USA. Trudeau hasn’t exactly been endearing himself with the American government lately so we remain vulnerable on that energy front too.

Canada has more than enough oil and gas to supply the entire nation with domestic sources. What we lack however is transmission infrastructure. We can’t even build a bloody pipeline across our own nation due to regulatory burdens. It appears that the government would rather see foreign tankers of oil travel up the Saint Lawrence river daily than see a pipeline come out from Alberta.

The situation is absurd and it is untenable. Sadly nothing will change or improve until we admit that our regulatory system is out of control and then make a serious effort to fix it. I won’t hold my breath.