View from the Left: The Liberals had a better campaign

By Richard Tones and Brenton Walters

There is a litany of perspectives out there on the poor showing of the NDP and Thomas Mulcair in the recent federal election. They range from not being ‘left’ enough and corporate conspiracies to specific moments such as the niqab controversy and debate performances.

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The Orange Crush came up empty on Election Night.  Why?  Read on.

The problem is that although some have some of these theories have merit, the issues identified were symptoms and not the illness. We suspect our perspective will be seen as simplistic – but it might be just that simple.

The Liberals had a better product.

The Liberal machine put together a campaign that was just shy of perfect in political terms, and New Democrats know it. They had some particular advantages such as a leader with incredible notoriety, an enviable vote efficiency, manageable expectations, and a campaign just long enough to bring it all together.

On election day, voters that had identified as NDP supporters five weeks earlier voted Liberal. That is why Mulcair has 44 seats instead of ’just 35 more than the NDP had in 2011’.

The Niqab

With all due respect to Mulcair, the niqab didn’t matter in terms of electoral fortune – it was just a bump in the road. The results speak for themselves: the Conservative’s numbers barely moved from 2011, the Bloc dropped five points, and the Liberals went up over 20 points.

If the niqab mattered, it was only for a moment, and it wasn’t a vote-determining issue. In Quebec, the NDP finished a full 10 points behind the Liberals, who arguably had the same position.

More than 60% of Quebeckers voted for the two parties (Liberal & NDP) who had a position that apparently 93% of Quebeckers disagreed with. The Bloc started the campaign at 17% according to Nanos and ended at 19.3%, popping up over 20% briefly a full three weeks after the niqab story broke.

More Quebeckers voted for the Liberals and NDP in 2015 than in 2011. They just seemed to be attracted to the Liberals more – niqab be damned.

The NDP Economic Anchor

What has become the traditional attack by Liberals and Conservatives (or the litany of provincial coalitions of the two) is that the NDP doesn’t understand business, will increase taxes, and generally can’t handle money.

We have now seen three elections in a row where the NDP spent an entire campaign trying to prove they were up to the challenge: the 2015 Federal, the 2014 provincial in Ontario, and the 2013 provincial in British Columbia.

In each case the central message of the NDP was, “you can trust us with the bank card.”

The NDP is in the unenviable situation where they are in constant danger of being cut by both edges of the fiscal sword. If they don’t campaign on fiscal responsibility they fail to counter the primary attack on them, and if they do campaign on fiscal responsibility they are said to be saying whatever it takes to get elected – not to mention causing heartburn for their long standing base in labour and other social movements.

We’ve spoken to a lot of folks from within the party who agree that it is a frustrating position to be in and don’t have a particular answer on how to deal with it. Most (including your author) say that they would have run the same economic campaign – with only minor changes.

Our new theory? Ignore it.

In Layton’s speeches and debate performances he rarely rattled off economic data, and when he did bring it up it was always in the context of direct family finances such as bank fees. In contrast, you can’t find a speech from Mulcair (or Horwath, and Dix) that doesn’t talk about big economics.

This will irk some folks, but Trudeau talked about emotional issues at around 30,000 feet while Mulcair spoke about financial planning at about 100 feet. There is an interesting parallel to Layton v. Ignatieff.

In 2011 our roles were reversed

Jack Layton was an amazing leader and that helped greatly, but the product itself was superior to that of the Liberals in 2011.

In 2011, the NDP had a campaign with the same feel as Trudeau’s: it was high level with a larger message, one that appealed to voters without getting stuck in the trenches. We had a budget and lots of numbers, but it never got in the way of the larger discussion of values. We were much better at ignoring our largest negative, fiscal management.

If you want to test this yourself just go ask your ‘average voter’ friend to give you three adjectives on the Liberal and New Democrat campaigns in 2011 and 2015. You will find ‘average voter’ will use some of the same words to describe the Layton and Trudeau campaigns and conversely the same words to describe the Mulcair and Ignatieff campaigns.

Summary

Don’t mistake our mention of ‘product’ as meaning just Layton or Trudeau (or any other leader) alone. Having a leader that is naturally charismatic is incredibly helpful, but the package around them has to be just as dynamic, including a message that is more than a collection of policies – it has to all connect to a larger emotion. In 2015 we weren’t able to do that, while the Liberals were.

They presented voters with a near-perfect package: a charismatic leader, messaging that connected emotionally with a lot of Canadians, and (some) policies that supported that messaging. And so they won.

 

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Richard Tones is Director of Government Relations at Wazuku.  Previously, he had a successful career in the labour movement.  He’s a veteran NDP campaigner, a former aide to BC cabinet ministers, and one-time candidate.  He’s from one of the great hometowns: Maple Ridge, BC.  His full-length bio photo was too edgy for this blog.

 

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Brenton Walters’ firm Civil Communications offers campaign and communication services.  He is a veteran campaigner including Tom Mulcair’s leadership and Vision Vancouver.  He was raised in a small logging town on an island and then a small farming/hippy community outside a bigger town on a bigger island on the coast of BC.  Diehard Whitecaps fan.

Thanks to both Richard and Brenton for contributing.  Looking to add more perspectives at Rosedeer.com in the months ahead.

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Wrap-up on BC’s federal cabinet representation

BC is off to a decent start in terms of Cabinet clout with three new federal cabinet ministers today: Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (Justice and Attorney-General of Canada), Hon. Harjit Sajjan (National Defence), and Hon. Carla Qualtrough (Sport and Persons with Disabilities).  All rookie MPs, which is without precedent in modern times.

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau is the 3rd prime minister to be an alumnus of the University of British Columbia, joining Rt. Hon. John Turner and Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell.

BC carved out some senior cabinet representation in PMJT’s first cabinet

Here is a summary of articles at Rosedeer.com on BC’s cabinet representation:

  • Cabinet Committee assignments for BC ministers. What will BC’s ministers be up to? Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Hon. Harjit Sajjan, and Hon. Carla Qualtrough sit on a variety of important committees with Wilson-Raybould and Sajjan on Agenda & Results.
  • The Justin Trudeau Cabinet by Region. How does BC fare versus other regions? With 12% of the seats in the House of Commons and 9% of the seats in the Liberal Caucus, BC’s Liberal delegation composes 10% of the Cabinet’s membership.
  • Jody Wilson-Raybould a First Nations first.  Wilson-Raybould is first female First Nations person elected in British Columbia history.  Now, she’s the second FN cabinet minister from BC, following in footsteps of Hon. Len Marchand.

Cabinet Committee assignments for BC ministers

BC’s federal cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould, Harjit Singh Sajjan and Carla Qualtrough will be busy.

Hon. Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South) sworn in as Minister of National Defence

Cabinet committee mandates and memberships indicate they will be spending a lot of time in meeting rooms.  They will now begin the four year tug-of-war between cabinet duties and constituency visits.

Cabinet Committee on Agenda and Results

The pre-eminent Cabinet sub-committee chaired by PM Trudeau.  Both Wilson-Raybould and Sajjan are members of the 11 member committee.

Treasury Board

Chair Hon. Scott Brison.  No BC ministers.

Parliamentary Affairs

Chair Hon. Dominic Leblanc.  No BC ministers.

Inclusive Growth, Opportunities and Innovation

Chaired by Health Minister Hon. Jane Philpott.  This committee is mandated to “grow the middle class”.  No BC ministers.

Diversity and Inclusion

Chaired by Immigration Minister Hon. John McCallum.  This committee is mandated to improve relationship with indigenous Canadians and promote diversity, multiculturalism, and linguistic duality.  Wilson-Raybould and Qualtrough are members.

Canada in the World and Public Security

Responsible for promotion of Canadian values and interests abroad, and domestic/global security.  Chaired by Hon. Ralph Goodale (Public Security ministers), Wilson-Raybould is vice-chair and Saijjan is a member.

Sub-committee of Canada in the World: Canada-US relations

Mandated to “foster strong relations”.  Chaired by International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, Wilson-Raybould andSajjan are members.

Intelligence and Emergency Management

Chaired by PM Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould is vice-chair,Sajjan is a member.

Open and Transparent Government

Chaired by Hon. Judy Foote, Qualtrough is vice-chair, Wilson-Raybould is a member.

Environment and Climate Change

Chaired by Foreign Minister Hon. Stephane Dion.  No BC ministers.

By my count, Wilson-Raybould sits on six cabinet committees (vice-chair of two),Sajjan sits on four committees, and Qualtrough two (vice-chair of one).

Treasury Board, Growing the middle class, and Climate Change are three committees where a BC presence is missing, but realistically, BC’s ministers can’t be everywhere.  With two on Agenda & Results, BC has a fair crack to be heard.

The Justin Trudeau Cabinet by Region

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his new cabinet today.

Here’s a spatial look at the geographic base of his ministers.

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The following table breaks down the number of ministers by province and how that compares to the size of the LPC caucus in each province/territories (P/T), and how cabinet representation relates to the proportion of that P/T’s share of the LPC national caucus and share of seats overall.

# of Ministers # of Liberal MPs # of MPs (Total) % of seats from P/T in HOC (all) % of LPC seats from P/T in LPC caucus % of P/T Lib MPs as share of cabinet % of LPC MPs from P/T in Cabinet LPC MPs as % of P/T
BC 3 17 42 12% 9% 10% 18% 40%
AB 2 4 34 10% 2% 6% 50% 12%
SK 1 1 14 4% 1% 3% 100% 7%
MB 2 7 14 4% 4% 6% 29% 50%
ON 11 80 121 36% 43% 35% 14% 66%
QUE 7 40 78 23% 22% 23% 18% 51%
NB 1 10 10 3% 5% 3% 10% 100%
NS 1 11 11 3% 6% 3% 9% 100%
PEI 1 4 4 1% 2% 3% 25% 100%
NFLD 1 7 7 2% 4% 3% 14% 100%
NORTH 1 3 3 1% 2% 3% 33% 100%
TOTAL 31 184 338 100% 100% 100% 17% 54%

BC’s share of Cabinet in line with House of Commons / Liberal Caucus

  • BC’s share of the House of Commons (HOC) is 12%.
  • BC’s Liberal MPs make up 9% of the national Liberal Caucus
  • BC’s federal cabinet ministers make up 10% of the PM Justin Trudeau’s cabinet

Ontario has most ministers but lower proportion of MPs in Cabinet

  • Ontario’s share of HOC is 36%
  • Ontario Liberal MPs make up 43% of national Liberal Caucus
  • Ontario ministers make up 35% of federal cabinet

Quebec’s proportion of HOC, proportion of Lib MPs as share of national Caucus and Cabinet are very consistent at 22-23%.

Atlantic Canada makes up 17% of the Liberal Caucus compared to 9% of overall seats, and 13% of cabinet.

The Prairies make up 18% of the HOC, but only 7% of the Liberal Caucus.  Their share of cabinet seats is 16%.

Which regions have the most MPs utilized in Cabinet?

  • 42% of Prairie Liberal MPs serving in Cabinet, compared to
  • 18% BC
  • 18% Quebec
  • 14% Ontario
  • 13% Atlantic

Overall, PM Trudeau has carefully balanced regional delegations as a proportion of his Cabinet.  He has chosen to ensure cabinet is balanced by region, not by proportion of Liberal MPs by region.  If he had done so, there would be more cabinet ministers from Atlantic Canada (where he swept) and fewer from the Prairies where he took 12 of 62.

UPDATED:

Adding Ottawa Citizen graphic which tells the story of Cabinet diversity:

BC’s Place at the Cabinet Table

With Wednesday’s cabinet announcement looming, what will it mean for British Columbia?

Sir John A parachuted into Victoria in 1878

BC’s place at the Cabinet table was at the head of the table in the 1870s when Sir John A. MacDonald was elected from Victoria in 1878, despite never having seen the place.  He would eventually visit Victoria once he fulfilled the ultimate the election promise – the construction of the CPR.

Who have been BC’s heavyweights at the cabinet table?  An historical review reveals British Columbia’s conflicted past in dealing with race relations and uneven influence compared to its provincial peers.

The early years ~ BC notables in Cabinet

In the late 1800’s, Edgar Dewdney was elected from Yale BC and served as an MP under Sir John A. MacDonald, becoming a partisan loyalist, personal friend, and ultimately an executor of his will.  Lured to BC by the Gold Rush, Dewdney’s name is remembered through major roads (Dewdney Trunk) and localities, principally for his role in surveying the province.  John A. dispatched him to oversee the territories as a direct report where he dealt with the Riel Rebellion and the demise of buffalo herds and resulting starvation.   Not averse to mixing public duties with private land speculation, he eventually made it to federal cabinet in 1888 but not from BC; later, he was appointed BC Lieutenant-Governor.  A BC cabinet minister?  Not exactly, but an influential British Columbian at and near the cabinet table, yes.

Conservative Martin Burrell, representing Yale-Cariboo, served in Prime Minister Robert Borden’s Conservative and Unionist cabinets as Agriculture minister, Mines Minister, and Minister of Customs & Inland Revenue.   An interesting note about Burrell (a former mayor of Grand Forks), was that he was appointed Parliamentary Librarian in 1920 and served in this post until his death in 1938.

Future BC premier Simon Fraser Tolmie would serve in both of Arthur Meighen’s cabinets as Minister of Agriculture.  In both stints, Meighen’s governments were momentary, outfoxed by William Lyon MacKenzie King.  Along with Ujjal Dosanjh, Tolmie has been one of two BC premiers to serve in a federal cabinet.  Other premiers, such as Amor de Cosmos, Fighting Joe Martin, and Dave Barrett, also served in Parliament.

HH Stevens aboard the Komagatu Maru

Conservative heavyweight HH Stevens served in Meighen’s brief cabinet (1926) then for four years under Prime Minister RB Bennett.

He was a powerful Trade minister who crusaded against price-fixing.  He resigned in epic fashion and created the Reconstruction Party which split the vote and destroyed the Bennett government in 1935.

He returned to the Conservatives thereafter but his political career fizzled out.

While he was unquestionably a force of politics in BC during the 1920s and 1930s, he is also remembered for his role in stifling the Komagatu Maru and for reflecting public opinion during his time concerning Asian immigration: “We cannot hope to preserve the national type if we allow Asiatics to enter Canada in any numbers.”

Fishing boats seized during internment of Japanese-Canadians

Fear over Asian immigration was a multi-partisan issue, with labour leaders and Liberal politicians eager participants as well.  Liberal Ian MacKenzie was sworn into Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s cabinet prior to the 1930 election.  He won his seat but the government lost power.  In 1935 he re-emerged as Minister of National Defence.  He also became the first Government House Leader in the House of Commons.  As BC’s top cabinet minister, he championed the internment of Japanese-Canadians during WWII, stating in the 1942 election: “Let our slogan be for British Columbia: ‘No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.”

HH Stevens probably remains the most notable figure in Canadian politics coming from BC between Confederation to the end of WWII.  Perhaps it was the librarian Burrell who left the most lasting mark.

Moving toward modern times

James Sinclair: Justin Trudeau’s grandfather

The service of James Sinclair bears mention – the grandfather of incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  He was a Member of Parliament from Vancouver-North and Coast-Capilano from 1940 to 1958, when he was defeated in the Diefenbaker sweep.  He served as Minister of Fisheries from 1952-57.  The Sinclair Centre in Vancouver bears his name.

The Diefenbaker era ushered in BC’s first dose of serious cabinet clout.  From 1957-63, three senior ministers hailed from the west coast.

Two-time contender E. Davie Fulton

E.Davie Fulton as Minister of Justice for much of that time; Howard Green, ultimately serving as Secretary of State for External Affairs; and George Pearkes, Victoria Cross recipient, served as Minister of National Defence prior to his appointment as BC’s Lieutenant-Governor in 1960.  Fulton left federal politics to lead the BC Conservative Party, but was thwarted by the governing Socreds.

The election of the Pearson government in 1963 continued BC’s cabinet presence with capable ministers, albeit at a less prestigious level than the Diefenbaker years.

Arthur Laing served in Pearson’s cabinet as Minister of Northern Affairs and Natural Resources then later as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.  A former leader of the BC Liberal Party, Laing was the “BC Minister”; the bridge from YVR to the City is named in his honour.  Laing’s wingman in cabinet was John Nicholson who served in various posts under Pearson.

BC’s decline in clout

While BC held at least three seats in cabinet during the first PET ministry (1968-79), BC seemed to lose ground with other provinces who had powerful ministers.  While BC was not without credible ministers, the Marc Lalondes, Jean Marchands, Jean Chretiens, John Turners, and Allan MacEachens defined the Trudeau era at the cabinet level.

In 1968, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau brought young Vancouver MP Ron Basford into cabinet as Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs.  He is remembered as the minister who championed Granville Island among other BC legacies.  Laing continued in Public Works until 1972.  Jack Davis served in Fisheries and Environment portfolios between 1968-1974 (before his election as a Social Credit MLA).  Len Marchand and Iona Campagnolo both served as Ministers of State in the mid 1970s, with Marchand finishing as Minister of Environment in 1979.  Marchand was the first First Nation cabinet minister and first FN Member of Parliament in Canadian history.  Senator Ray Perrault served as Government House Leader from 1974 to 1979.

The short-lived Joe Clark government featured prominent BC politicians like Minister of Environment John Fraser, Defence Minister Allan MacKinnon, and Minister of State Ron Huntington (father of Delta South MLA Vicky Huntington).  Their tenures were short-lived when the Clark government was defeated in the House.  Fraser ran for leader in 1976, dropping off on the second ballot but delivering his support for Clark.

When PET was returned in 1980, he had the makings of a strong front bench from BC.  Popular ex-mayor Art Phillips had been elected to the Liberals in 1979, serving in Opposition.  Former BC Liberal leader Gordon Gibson contested North Vancouver-Burnaby while renowned resource economist Peter Pearse sought election in Vancouver Quadra.   Three strong ministers except that none were elected, nor were any Liberals in BC.  Wipe out.  Senators Jack Austin and Ray Perrault became BC’s unelected representatives in Cabinet.  Perrault was later dropped, contributing to BC’s alienation from the Liberal Party.

When Prime Minister John Turner decided to seek office from Vancouver-Quadra in 1984, he sought to bridge the divide between the Liberal Party and the west coast.  While he gained his seat (in the face of an electoral onslaught), he alone was elected from BC.

Turner’s BC story is a compelling one.  He spent his early early years in Rossland and, while his formative years were spent in Ottawa, he returned to UBC for university (his stepfather was Lieutenant-Governor) where he was very much Big Man on Campus along with being Canadian 100 metre sprint champion.   His BC years are chronicled in Elusive Destiny, an apt title for a political giant who’s timing was off.  (Incredibly, his Olympic dreams were dashed when his car was hit by a train on the Arbutus Corridor!  Who woulda thunk it).  Turner served as MP for Vancouver Quadra for 9 years, retaining his seat after relinquishing his leadership to Jean Chretien.  He had a strong BC connection but Turner was very much a pan-Canadian, representing three provinces during his illustrious parliamentary career.

The Mulroney-Chretien eras

From 1984 to 2004, BC had a steady presence at the cabinet table, not strikingly influential, but produced our first prime minister.

John Fraser, Speaker of the House of Commons

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney came to power in 1984 riding a wave of western alienation.  But he also won big in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes too.  It was a huge mandate.  “Red Tories” John Fraser and Pat Carney, an upset winner in 1980, led the BC contingent.  Fraser took Fisheries and Carney to Energy – two significant portfolios.  Fraser would resign halfway through the first term during “Tunagate” but his stature among MPs led him to a much-dignified election and reign as Speaker.
Carney would move to International Trade during the dramatic US-Canada Free Trade negotiations.  Tom Siddon would replace Fraser, and others like Gerry St. Germain, Frank Oberle, and Mary Collins would ultimately join Mulroney’s cabinet.

St. Germain was a Mulroney favourite.  The bilingual, Metis chicken farmer was my MP and opponent when I rode my ten-speed down to Mae Cabott’s Liberal campaign office on the Lougheed Highway in 1984.  Gerry taught me a lesson in humility by spanking our campaign (Tip: be careful burmashaving on a busy highway when everyone hates your political party).  Incredibly to me, having been appointed to cabinet, Gerry lost his seat in 1988 at the very moment he was poised to move up in the cabinet ranks.  BCers often choose protest over pragmatism.

In 1988, Carney did not run again creating a vacancy in Vancouver-Centre.  Back then, Progressive Conservatives were electable in that riding, unimaginable, it seems, now.  Kim Campbell resigned her seat in the provincial legislature part way through her first term and secured the PC nomination, won the seat, and catapulted herself into Cabinet.  As Justice minister (then National Defence), she held a high national profile, and emerged as the consensus favourite to succeed Mulroney following the demise of the Charlottetown Accord.  Campbell fended off Jean Charest for the leadership win.

Kim Campbell on the campaign trail, 1993

She had a strong BC network behind her, like Chief of Staff Ray Castelli and other apparatchiks that have been a big part of BC politics, but Mulroney did not leave her much time and the subsequent election played out for her like it did for John Turner, except worse.  The party was decimated and, like 1984, Vancouver bore witness on election night to a humiliating concession speech by a sitting prime minister.

Jean Chretien’s election in 1993 and subsequent cabinets through 2003 had consistent BC representation, yet not too flashy.  David Anderson, elected in 1968, then BC MLA and Liberal leader, returned from the political wilderness in 1993 to serve as National Revenue Minister before moving on to Fisheries then his signature role in Environment.  Herb Dhaliwal was another prominent minister during the Chretien era, following Anderson in National Revenue and Fisheries before going to Natural Resources.  Ministers of State include Stephen Owen, Raymond Chan, and Hedy Fry.  Chretien could never elect more than 6-7 from BC so he didn’t have a lot to choose from.

BC’s return to Diefenbaker-like prominence: 2004-2008

I’ll run for the Liberals in 2004, says ex-NDP Premier Ujjal Dosanjh

Both the Paul Martin cabinet and first Stephen Harper cabinet saw a decided uptick in BC clout at the federal cabinet table.  Following the 2004 election, Martin appointed a record five BC ministers including star recruits David Emerson (Industry) and former BC Premier Ujjal Dosanjh (Health).  The lineup was rounded out by Stephen Owen, Raymond Chan, and Senate Leader Jack Austin.  The BC delegation was aided by a regional campaign, led by Mark Marissen, that punched above its weight in the 2004 election with its “Made in BC Agenda”.  The Liberals won more seats in BC despite dropping from a majority to a minority.  (They would win more again in 2006 in a losing national effort)

CPC Cabinet heavyweight Stockwell Day

Harper’s first cabinet contained a major surprise – David Emerson.  To the astonishment of Liberals and Conservatives alike, the Liberal star switched jerseys, eschewing politics for policy, and assumed the International Trade portfolio and eventually Foreign Affairs before he left office in 2008.  Emerson was joined from BC by former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day (Public Safety, International Trade, Treasury Board), Chuck Strahl (Agriculture, Indian and Northern Affairs, Transport), and Gary Lunn (Natural Resources).  Jay Hill’s appointment in 2007 as Whip (elevated to cabinet) then Government House Leader would make it five ministers for the BC delegation, matching Martin.  BC had considerable clout.

Fading out of the Harper years

Emerson, Day, Strahl and Hill would all choose to leave politics by 2011, and Lunn involuntarily.  They would give way to James Moore, who started in Heritage and went to Industry, Ed Fast – who may have the Trans Pacific Partnership as his legacy, John Duncan, Kerri-Lynne Findlay, and Alice Wong.  As the Harper mandate struggled in its final years, so too did its profile in British Columbia – not an uncommon life cycle for aging governments.  Only Ed Fast and Alice Wong remain in Parliament from the Harper cabinets.

Eclipsed by other regions

For many Liberal governments in the Pearson-Trudeau-Chretien eras, it was often a case of being “west of the best” or so it seemed.  BC had many capable ministers during this time but very few national personalities that one hearkens back to when remembering an era.  Ron Basford may have the strongest claim for cabinet legacies.  The Martin government went in a stronger direction for BC but it’s lifespan was short.  Harper’s team started off strong but seemed to fade down the stretch.  Good people, good ministers, but lacking a sense of oomph.

Conservative cabinets have seen BC eclipsed by Conservative-crazy Alberta, which has established the storyline for much of the past 40 years.  Alberta had leader (1976-83) and Prime Minister Joe Clark (later Secretary of State for External Affairs and lead constitutional negotiator) and Deputy PM Don Mazankowski.  The demise of the PCs was born in Alberta too with Preston Manning’s Reform Party.  The evolution and return of the conservative movement was an Alberta story – Stockwell Day (who ran for leader of the Alliance from Alberta before moving to BC) and Stephen Harper led in succession.  Harper’s cabinet also featured prominent Albertan personalities such as Jim Prentice, Rona Ambrose, and Jason Kenney, who may well be the next in a procession of Alberta Conservative leaders.

British Columbians have risen to prominence in the NDP, although not usually to the top.  Tommy Douglas led the party from a base in BC for a time.  Rosemary Brown, Dave Barrett, Svend Robinson, and Nathan Cullen have all been serious national leadership contenders, though unsuccessful.

BC’s Burden

There’s one major disadvantage: Distance.  How many people want to fly 3000 miles back and forth each week?  Time spent traveling is enough to dissaude anyone, especially those with younger children.

A point of regional unfairness is that BC ridings have more population than most provinces due to Canada’s constitutional side deals.  The vast expanse of Skeena has far more constituents than ridings in Saskatchewan, Manitoba or any in the Maritimes.  How does that make sense?  It makes a tough job even tougher.

Political culture.  Federal politics is more abstract to British Columbians.  While we saw 70% turnout in the recent election, BCers do not live and die by federal politics. If they did, Keith Baldrey might report on federal politics more than twice a year.  But they don’t.  BC media outlets have only two reporters in Ottawa (Vancouver Sun and the Tyee).  Provincial politics is the main sport and drives the media’s and the public’s interest.

Protest over politics.  We have often gone the other way when Canadians elect their governments.  BC abandoned PET in 1980, cut down the PC team in 1988, and kept Chretien on a short leash.

Then there’s the network.  It’s tough to aspire to national leadership when the critical mass is elsewhere.  Kim Campbell remains the only BC-raised prime minister.  Alberta has figured out how to gain national office, but no one here.  HH Stevens may have had the first good chance in the dying days of the RB Bennett government but he passed on it.  E.Davie Fulton was a thorn in Diefenbaker’s paw, but finished third to Dief in the 1956 PC leadership, and third again trying to succeed him in 1967.  John Fraser tried in 1976.  Hedy Fry and Joyce Murray both made quixotic bids to lead their parties but were never in contention.

Of course, fewer BC politicians speak french than in eastern provinces.  This has been a drawback in climbing the greasy pole.  James Moore does, but he is another BC politician who has ruled out a national bid.

Prime ministers have been piled up like cordwood from Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta.  Even Saskatchewan has had its run; BC has but one brief stint from one of its own prior to her electoral slaughter.  Where have been the Finance Ministers from BC? Many excellent ministers from BC have served at the cabinet table, but my overall assessment is that we, as a province, haven’t been exceptional in the federal arena.  In part, because many have chosen not to run.

What’s next?

Unlike any Liberal prime minister since his father in 1968, Justin Trudeau has more than a handful of MPs to choose from in BC.  However, BC will have to be patient.  ‘Heavyweight’ cabinet ministers usually don’t start out that way.  13 of 17 Liberal MPs from BC arrive in Ottawa with no federal experience.  It will take time for BC’s new ministers to learn the ropes and gain effectiveness in the race for competing resources.

Trudeau is probably the first elected prime minister in Canadian history to claim extensive BC roots and a strong family connection, though Quebec rightly has first claim.

I wish the new BC appointees patience and perseverance.  BC’s clout in cabinet over the years has been checkered.  Let’s hope they elevate BC’s priorities to their rightful place.

UPDATED:

BC netted two major cabinet portfolios with the appointment of the Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (Justice and Attorney-General) and Hon. Harjit Singh Sajjan (Defence).  Hon. Carla Qualtrough (Sport and Persons with Disabilities) rounds out the BC cabinet delegation.

Both Wilson-Raybould and Sajjan represent Vancouver seats while Qualtrough is one of five Liberal MPs elected south of the Fraser.

When is the last time BC’s delegation has been entirely made up of rookie MPs?  I’m not sure there is a precedent in the past 100 years.

** This post was taken from a number of sources and not always easy to piece together BC’s federal voice.  If there are any sins of omission or commission, please comment.  Thank you.

Related:

Politics wins campaigns, not Pollyanna

Today’s Globe & Mail carried an oped from Don Tapscott, the Chancellor of Trent University, concerning the meaning of the 42nd federal election.

Tapscott says: “Voter turnout jumped… in stark contrast to electoral trends in the United States and other Western countries, where a growing number of citizens just aren’t voting”.

Are post-election narratives being written by Pollyannas?

Uh, that’s not exactly true.

The key turnout stat is percentage of voting age population.  Stats Canada compared Canada to the US and the UK in the following chart up to 2011. 

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In recent years, turnout in the US has been increasing while it had been relatively flat in Canada (until 2015).    Certainly, Canada’s turnout rate hasn’t been anything to write home about, and we have hardly been in a superior position to the US or the UK.  UK turnout has been steadily increasing.  US turnout was higher than Canada in 2008, and US turnout in the past three elections has been at the highest levels in the last three decades.

Chart: Turnout as % of Voting Age Population

US Canada UK
2004 55.7% 2006 62.8% 2001 59.4%
2008 57.1% 2008 56.5% 2005 61.4%
2012 54.9% 2011 58.5% 2010 65.8%

The 2015 Canada election is a spike up.  On the basis of voting age population (a larger group than registered voters), the final number will be about 61%, I think (17.5 million voters out of a voting age population of 28.8 million).  The UK’s 2015 turnout was 60.5% (of voting age pop) and 66.1% (of registered voters).

Turnout is increasing everywhere in part because political parties are much more sophisticated in turnout techniques an place a greater emphasis on its role in campaigns.

Which brings me to my other point about Tapscott’s piece.  He heralds increased turnout as proof positive of positive campaigning and that the Liberals “refused to use negative advertising”.  Yes, Justin’s advertising compared to the Conservatives was more positive.  But those “sunny ways” share with occasional cloudy periods and thunderstorms.  Did young people troop to the polls because of sunny ways or did turnout increase to “STOP HARPER”.  The Stop Harper campaign and related strategic voting campaigns were the epitome of negative campaigning – imploring voters to vote against something as the first priority. Engage Canada’s pre-election campaign was not exactly a love letter to the governing Conservatives.  That Justin conducted himself in a positive manner was a smart strategy in the context of the anti-Harper negativity, presenting himself as the antidote. The Liberals didn’t have to do much of the ‘dirty work’ though  they did find time to rough up Thomas Mulcair along the way. That’s politics !

Hey, what do I know.  I’m not a Globe op-ed writer, I’m just a simple countryboy from Haney, BC who thought Laurentian Consensus played for the Montreal Canadiens.  It just seems to me that elections are about choices and contrast.  A party puts out their agenda and leadership and compares it to the others.  All parties did that, to varying degrees, and will continue to do so in the future.  As they should.  Let’s just not be Pollyannish in our analysis about what really took place.  Voters are comparison shoppers.  Yes, the Liberals profited by the comparison.  Yes, more voters turned out.   And yes, a negative view of Stephen Harper was probably the strongest impulse driving new voters to the polls.

What happened here was not that unique relative to other countries, nor is it that unique in the context of election campaigns in general.  This time, the Liberals just did it better.

Jody Wilson-Raybould: a First Nations first in BC

It took 148 years to elect a First Nations women to either Parliament or the Legislative Assembly from British Columbia.  Jody Wilson-Raybould blazed a new trail in last week’s federal election.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, elected in Vancouver-Granville

I wrote earlier how Len Marchand was the first First Nations MP elected 47 years ago, in 1968.  He was also the last First Nations MP elected from BC, when he won the final time in 1974.

@IndigPoli has been providing news and updates about indigenous candidates throughout the federal election process.  The following table is taken from its Twitter feed, outlining the 42 MPs elected from First Nations, Inuit, Dene, and Metis ancestry since Confederation:

That’s 42 indigenous MPs over 148 years –  10 from the 2015 election alone (8 new).  See CBC story.

1960 / 1949

Status Indians received the right to vote from Parliament in 1960, only 55 years ago, and 93 years into Canada’s existence.  Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservative government was in power at the time, and when Len Marchand was elected in 1968, he thanked Diefenbaker in Parliament for doing what previous federal governments had failed to do.

Frank Calder, MLA from Atlin, 1949-1979

British Columbia had done so in 1949, whereupon Nisga’a leader Frank Calder was promptly elected in the riding of Atlin to the BC Legislature and continued for 30 consecutive years.  He was the first status Indian to be elected to any legislature in Canada and ultimately the first aboriginal cabinet minister in BC history.

Frank Calder sparked the most important rights and title case in Canadian history when Calder (1973), argued by Thomas Bergerwent forward to the Supreme Court of Canada.  The Court ruled that title existed in a decision that reverberates today.

Why so few from BC?

Not a lot of First Nation candidates have run for office over the years and, clearly, not many have run in winnable seats.

I am not qualified to speak on the unique social, cultural, and financial barriers that many First Nations face in seeking office, but I am familiar with barriers that Canadians, in general, face when seeking office, and they are substantial for anyone when contemplating public office.  It’s both the general election and the party nomination that are the challenge.

One reason why First Nations have been under-represented is the dispersed nature of their population.  There are not many ridings in BC where First Nations form a large ‘bloc’.  And even when you look at the densest concentration of First Nations in a federal riding in BC – Skeena – the reality is that it is made up of many, many different nations, all with different traditions.

Look at Metro Vancouver or the GTA where we are seeing the election of MPs and MLAs from diverse backgrounds.  This is happening in part because of strength in numbers.  Their populations are concentrated in certain areas (eg. Chinese in Richmond, South Asians in Surrey) leading to the election of representatives from their community.  This hasn’t happened to a large extent in Canada, except the North.  It certainly hasn’t happened in BC.

Policies matter too, of course.  Haida leader Miles Richardson ran for the Liberals in Skeena in 2004 with high hopes but finished third to winning NDP MP Nathan Cullen.  Cullen has just been elected to his fifth term and enjoys strong support in First Nation communities.  While a person’s background help, winning candidates usually have to swim with the tide of opinion in their riding.

I worked hard for Marion Wright, a former chief on the North Island.  She fell short in the 2009 election, despite our hopes.  She’s yet another example of a First Nations candidate that would have made an impact, however, she ran up against issues that favoured the NDP.  While improving the party’s standing among First Nations, she lost most FN polls.  Marion tragically passed away not long after that election – she had a lot more to contribute.

Len Marchand, First Nations trailblazer in Parliament, elected 1968-1979 in Kamloops

One of the keys to Jody Wilson-Raybould’s success is running for the right party in the right riding at the right time.  She was a good candidate, but also had the benefit of swimming with the tide.

Len Marchand first won in 1968 amidst ‘Trudeaumania’ and built the support necessary to hang on in tougher elections in 1972 and 1974.  In 2015, Trent Derrick of the NDP had a chance in Cariboo-Prince George for the NDP but had the national momentum drain away.  If there are more First Nations candidates in viable seats, then more will be elected, simple as that.

Prescriptions

I wrote a term paper in university based on Len Marchand’s work in the Senate concerning aboriginal representation.  Basically, Len argued that – at that time- aboriginal Canadians merited about 3-4% share of the House of Commons based on population but due to the dispersal of its population, did not reach that level.  He argued for guaranteed representation based on the aboriginal population in Canada.  It was hard not to agree with the idea.  We have guaranteed representation for PEI for pete’s sake.  Guaranteed for Saskatchewan.  Guaranteed for Quebec.  Guaranteed for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  Special deals here.  Special deals there.

Geographic deals are on thing, but the idea of seats based on background seems to go against the grain.  Perhaps this election is showing guaranteed representation may not be necessary, though there is still a long way to go before First Nations are represented in proportionate numbers.

The State of Maine has had two non-voting seats on the floor of the Assembly for the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes since the early 1800s.  Is this a potential model – to provide a stronger voice for aboriginal people on the floor of the House if the numbers of elected members are not proportionate to their population?  (In 2015, the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy decided to vacate their longstanding seats over their concerns with the Maine government.)

First Nations have strong leaders at the community level, engaging with the federal and provincial governments on a nation-to-nation basis.  The argument that representing one’s nation is more impactful, instead of being a small part of a larger parliamentary institution must be compelling.

One thing is certain, more aboriginal people voted this election and more were elected.  Parliament will be better informed by those perspectives as a result.  Len Marchand and Frank Calder have shown the type of impact they have had within these institutions.  Now it’s Jody Wilson-Raybould’s opportunity to blaze a new trail, 148 years in the making.