Negative Political Advertisements in 1988: The Blueprint for Today

March 20, 2012 10:41 am
negative-political-advertising

Any day you’re not moving the ball forward, it’s moving backward. Lee Atwater, the controversial Republican political consultant and mentor to Karl Rove, coined this insightful maxim while he was serving as the manager for George H. W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign. Atwater’s statement can be considered a timeless piece of advice that should be kept in mind by all politicians, political consultants and pundits no matter where they may fit on the political spectrum. The core principle behind the maxim is the importance of staying on message, of always defining yourself and of never letting your opponent define you. However, since consistently achieving these ends in any political campaign is not always an easy task, the ball often begins moving backward when all three goals are not reached.

Many tactics are used by political consultants in the attempt to move the ball forward when crafting their candidate’s message and to avoid having the ball roll backward by being pulled off message because of distractions from opponents or from the media itself. However, there is one widely-used tactic in the United States, and which is increasingly used in Canada, offering the potential to move the ball both forward and backward simultaneously, thus helping one candidate but hurting another at the same time. That tactic is none other than the negative attack advertisement.

Lee Atwater

Negative advertisements are nothing new. They have been used for the better part of half a century in American politics, but it wasn’t really until the 1988 presidential election that the effectiveness of the technique would be fully realized. Flawlessly executed, it could diminish the credibility of the target of the advertisement while successfully reshaping voters’ opinions of the attack ad’s intended protagonist. In 1988, the National Security Political Action Committee aired an advertisement that is still considered by many to be the most successful negative attack ad of all time: the infamous “Willie Horton” advertisement.

The advertisement contrasted Republican George H. W. Bush’s view of crime and its punishment with that of his Democrat opponent, then Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis. It focused on Dukakis’s policy of granting weekend passes to prisoners serving time for felony offences in the state of Massachusetts. In a manner deemed by many to be racially charged, the advertisement highlighted how Willie Horton, an inmate serving a life sentence for murder, was let out on a weekend pass but went AWOL. During his extended weekend leave, he kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and raping the woman before being apprehended some months later in the state of Maryland. The advertisement wrapped up with the pithy phrase, “Weekend prison passes: Dukakis on crime.” Although the advertisement was produced outside the Bush campaign by the National Security Political Action Committee, when it was coupled with the guerilla-like campaign tactics utilized under the direction of Atwater, the Bush campaign was able to reshape the public’s opinion of Dukakis and eliminate his roughly seventeen point lead in the polls. The end result was a landslide victory for Republican George H. W. Bush in November of 1988.

George H W Bush & Lee Atwater in 1988

Twenty-four years later, the legacy of those negative attack ads perfected in the 1988 presidential campaign lives on. In the ongoing 2012 Republican presidential nomination process, candidates have spent millions of dollars generating negative advertisements in an attempt to reframe and redefine an opponent in a less favorable light, albeit with more subtlety than in the no-holds-barred Willie Horton advertisement.

The success of the Willie Horton ad demonstrates that using negative advertisements can move the ball forward, benefiting those who launch the advertisement and, especially, the candidate who is positively associated with the advertisement. However, there is always the possibility that this same practice can be damaging to those who launch the advertisement.

Mary Matalin, the widely respected Republican political consultant who worked on the 1988 Bush campaign with Lee Atwater and who served as the deputy campaign manager for the 1992 Bush re-election campaign, stresses the importance of keeping a campaign positive until just before going negative. Launching a negative ad when the public already views your candidate negatively can be extremely damaging since it risks a backlash from those who claim to hate negative campaigning. In other words, you cannot successfully launch a campaign by projecting negativity from the outset. To do so would seriously jeopardize your campaign by swiftly moving the ball backwards. The pitfalls of such a strategy are illustrated by the recent Ontario provincial election where the Progressive Conservative leader, Tim Hudak, who went negative from the outset and did not project a positive vision for Ontario, was rejected by Ontario voters.

Mary Matalin

Because they understand that negative advertising can be a dangerous double-edged sword, many candidates will claim that they are running a “positive” campaign and will extol the virtues of such a campaign to voters even as they purchase millions of dollars worth of airtime and fire one negative attack ad after another at their opponent. To see a striking example of this phenomenon, one need look no further than the Republican presidential candidate nomination race. In state after state, most candidates have launched multiple negative advertisements but are still careful to remind voters that they are running a positive campaign. This seemingly contradictory behaviour brings to mind another old maxim worthy of note: that is, in all politics, perception is reality.

Shallow Graves

March 19, 2012 4:34 pm
Pg21_by OLM Staff

The Kingston Mills Locks are located off a road that snakes its way through north Kingston. They can be usefully described as a point at which the city merges with the countryside. It was here that on June 30th, 2009 the Kingston Police made the grim discovery. Three sisters and an older woman were found dead in their Nissan Sentra, submerged in the Rideau Canal. Zainab, Sahar and Geeti – aged 19, 17 and 13 respectively – were the daughters of Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Yayha. The fourth victim was 52-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad, who at the time was thought to be the girls’ aunt.

The Shafia family had driven from Niagara Falls to Kingston the night before, where everyone with the exception of the brother Hamed was to stay, before making the final leg of the journey home to Montreal. After Zainab, Hamed was the second oldest child. Both he and Mohammad would later tell the police that he decided he would keep driving to Montreal that night and return to Kingston in a couple of days. Mohammad would later inform Detective Steve Kroopman that it was a last-second decision for the rest of the family to stop in Kingston. “If Tooba was awake we would have kept driving to Montreal,” he says to the detective. If they had kept driving, his three daughters and their aunt would never have gone missing. Zainab, he would go on to say, had a history of taking the family car out for “joy rides.” Perhaps this explained their disappearance. In any case, when the vehicle and bodies were found, it was assumed their night of innocent fun took a tragic turn. At some point while driving the car Zainab found her way to the locks and, with the other three passengers still in the car, drove into the Rideau Canal. Trapped in the submerged vehicle, the three sisters and their aunt had little chance of escape. Although the water in which the car and bodies were submerged was only a few metres deep, it was believed the four victims drowned to death.

Publicly, the police allowed the family to grieve. Nevertheless, their suspicions about the parents and their son were immediate and ran deep. The reasons were obvious. The notion that three daughters and their aunt would take a car out for a ‘joy ride’ was possible, but hardly likely. Rona’s presence alone would have raised doubts for the police. How irresponsible would she have to have been to willingly go out with three young girls? Zainab, after all, didn’t even have her driver’s license. That sort of behaviour would not only have been irresponsible, but utterly reckless given what the police soon learned about her family. Mohammad, the police discovered, was exceedingly strict, especially where his daughters were concerned. Their punishment for taking the car out for a ride would have been severe.  The story’s implausibility was exacerbated by its tragic end. It was almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which a driver would mistakenly veer off the road, onto to the grass and then into the canal. It would require a deliberate effort to drive a car in the part of the canal where the Nissan was found.

The Shafias’ claims about what happened on that fateful night their daughters and Rona went missing were bizarrely inconsistent and implausible.

Indeed the Shafias’ story and the Kingston Police’s immediate response established a pattern that was to become the hallmark of the subsequent investigation and trial. The Shafias’ claims about what happened on that fateful night their daughters and Rona went missing were bizarrely inconsistent and implausible. The Shafias, moreover, were ill prepared for the intense scrutiny to which they would soon be subject. All three would change their stories and all three would sometimes appear indifferent and even disdainful of the legal process in which they were hopelessly caught up. The police and Crown prosecutors, by contrast, were professionally trained to tease out inconsistencies in these sorts of stories and to uncover motives for murder. The police didn’t allow their immediate suspicions to prompt unwarranted conclusions. They would meticulously gather and examine evidence while remaining committed to upholding the rights of Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed. The police also knew had to set traps. The Shafias would quickly fall into one.

Police suspicions justified a court -issued warrant allowing police to wiretap conversations among Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed. The recorded conversations would prove decisive in the investigation. Mohammad especially would strike any listener as not only guilty of the murders, but also unrepentant and self-righteous.

“If they came back a hundred times, I would kill them a hundred times again,” he says in one conversation.

He refers to his daughters as ‘whores’ who brought shame to the family. When Tooba expresses a hint of remorse, he insists that what they did was right. The recorded conversations were remarkably self incriminating. Together they constitute a damning body of evidence. They were also remarkable for establishing the twist-ed rationale for the murders. “Even if they hoist me up in the gallows, nothing is more dear to me than my honour….Let’s leave our destiny to God,” he says at one point. In two sentences, Mohammad articulates the ideas motivating his decision to kill his daughters and his first wife. Mohammad’s faith complemented his zealous commitment to upholding his family’s honour.

In addition to the recorded conversations among Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed, there was other compelling evidence that the three were guilty of killing the three sisters and Rona. It was soon discovered that Rona was not the aunt of the sisters but rather Mohammad’s other wife. Hamed’s claim that he had driven to Montreal the night the four victims went missing was contradicted by his cell phone activity, which suggested he remained in Kingston. He would call 911 the next day to inform the operator he had been in a single vehicle accident in an empty Montreal parking lot. Yet there were parts of a broken headlight found at the Kingston Locks, suggesting that the Nissan had been pushed by another vehicle into the canal. That vehicle was presumed to be the family’s Lexus. The used Nissan had been purchased only days before. Hamed had conducted on-line searches for web sites that provide instruction on how to murder someone without getting caught.

Police formally charged Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed with four counts of first-degree murder on July 22, 2009.

There was a shared sense among those observing the trial – the media and local residents – that the deaths were not a tragic accident, but instead a horrible crime. Each new revelation only confirmed the shared belief that Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed were guilty of the crimes for which they were on trial. Mohammad couldn’t even summon a sense of remorse. At one point in the proceedings prosecutor Laurie Lacelle asked him if he thought his daughters and Rona deserved to die.

“Yes,” he said.

“If they came back a hundred times, I would kill them a hundred times again."

Yet the prosecution’s assessment could not definitively answer all questions concerning the deaths of the daughters and Rona. The biggest challenge stemmed from the indeterminate outcomes of the forensic reports. For the reports did not precisely reveal how Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Rona died. If they drowned, why was there no indication they had tried to escape from the vehicle after it was pushed into the Rideau Canal? Were they rendered unconscious before being pushed? This would seem likely and yet the pathologists suggested there were no traces of alcohol or drugs in the four women’s bodies. Both the Crown and the police must have been aware of the potential uncertainties such imprecise findings may have raised for the jury. Their shared strategy thus had to focus less on the question of how precisely the four women were killed, and more on why they were killed. Why would Mohammad, along with his second wife Tooba and their son Hamed be intent on killing four of their own flesh and blood in such brutal fashion? The answer, according to the Crown, was to preserve the family’s honour. The prosecution would contend that according to the three accused, the daughters had sacrificed that honour by shamelessly adopting Western styles of dress and behaviours. As for Rona, she was an expensive nuisance whose inability to conceive was another source of family shame. The proof was in the long trail of evidence of abuse and intimidation. The Shafias created an intolerable climate of fear from which all the victims in their own way had tried to escape.

Rona Mohammad’s memoirs make for compelling reading. The story that emerges from them is one of a middle-aged woman who felt trapped in an abusive marriage and an unhappy home life. The memoirs document the family’s circuitous route to Canada, the birth of the family’s seven children and, most interestingly, the growing rivalry between Rona and Tooba, Rona’s growing fear of Shafia and Sahar’s despair. It is small wonder that the prosecution introduced the diary as an important piece of evidence.  Rona’s estrangement from Mohammad appears rooted in her inability to conceive. Mohammad went to great lengths to help Rona towards this end, but also resented her for her inability to give him the children he desperately desired. Tooba was able to provide Mohammad with seven children, a fact that she apparently leveraged to assume a more privileged and dominant role in the Mohammad household. Rona strikes the reader as increasingly aware of her precarious place in the family. She fears Mohammad and Tooba’s shared hostility. Occasionally she is defiant, especially towards Tooba. But her defiance is tempered by her genuine desire to establish a more secure existence and more fulfilling home life. Her efforts were to no avail. At one point, Rona writes of a conversation between herself and Tooba.

“You are not his wife, you are my servant,” Tooba says to Rona.

On another day, she writes of Mohammad “hitting her.”

By virtue of being the oldest sibling, Zainab had come closest to escaping her oppressive home life. She would fall in love with a young man. At one point, she left home for the relative safety of a women’s shelter. But, as the jury would learn, the family persuaded her to return home. She would later marry her boyfriend, only to have the marriage annulled the next day.

Sahar attempted suicide and spoke of how fearful she was of her father and brother.

The trail of evidence led directly back not only to the Shafia household, but to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a school located in the Montreal borough St. Leonard and attended by both Sahar and Geeti. School staff was increasingly alarmed by both girls’ behaviour and wondered if their home life was the source of their struggles. There was evidence that the parents did not want Sahar and Geeti to get an education. Their absentee record would have been among the highest among students at the school. Their grades suffered. Sahar attempted suicide and spoke of how fearful she was of her father and brother.  She told teachers that she hoped to leave school and get a job. It was not because she was without academic ambition. On the contrary, Sahar spoke of wanting to study to become a gynecologist and return to Afghanistan with the hope of helping women there. But her home life was so distorted by fear and abuse that what she wanted to do now was to work so that she could leave home and support herself and her sister Geeti. That scenario was impossible. Quebec’s laws would not have allowed it.

Sahar’s terror is what inspired hopes of escape, but it is what also served to keep her in her family’s grips. When confronted with the knowledge that her parents would be called to the school, she immediately retracted the allegations. School staff would soon learn why. When speaking to staff, Tooba wanted to know if Sahar had kissed a boy she was perhaps dating. Sahar’s teacher at the time responded no, Sahar had not kissed a boy not because it wasn’t true, but because she feared for Sahar’s safety.

For those teachers and school officials who knew Sahar and Geeti, the evidence that their home life was characterized by threats, intimidation and sadness was too great to ignore but beyond the school’s mandate to address. Quebec’s Youth Protection Agency was thus called to assess the sisters’ problems in school and at home. The response on the part of the child protection agency was immediate but, in the end, somewhat bewildering.

The testimony of Jenna Rowe exemplifies why this is so. Jenna Rowe is a retired social worker who worked for Quebec’s Youth Protec-tion Agency. In her testimony, she conveyed intelligence and sensitivity, exactly the combination of traits one would hope to find in a social worker. On May 7, 2008, she was given a Code 1 report (codes highlight the urgency of the problem. Code 1 is the most urgent) regarding Sahar. Sahar was complaining of being extremely fearful of her father and had recently attempted to overdose on medication in a bid to commit suicide. But when Ms. Rowe spoke with Sahar in person, the young girl again retracted her allegations. She pleaded that her parents not be informed of what she had said or that she had attempted suicide. Ms. Rowe insisted, however, that she was obligated to speak with her parents. According to Ms. Rowe, Sahar was crying profusely during their entire conversation and that she was extremely fearful. Although not inevitable, such a reaction on the part of a young girl who has very good reason to fear her parents is somewhat predictable. If her father is abusive, then of course she is going to be terrified of him knowing that she has disclosed such abuse to teachers and social workers. Social workers must be intimately familiar with this sort of scenario.

Moreover, Ms. Rowe’s interviews with other family members should have done nothing to assuage her concerns for Sahar’s safety. Tooba indicated she had no idea Sahar felt “emotionally rejected,” nor did she know that Sahar had taken pills in a bid to commit suicide. She adamantly denied they exerted any pressure on Sahar not to go to school. Yet Sahar’s frequent absence from school is one reason why teachers and social workers were so concerned about both Sahar’s home life and her life as a student. Ms. Rowe’s remained deeply suspicious of Tooba’s denials.

Ms. Rowe’s interviews did not end with Sahar’s mother and nor did her suspicions. She met with the father and son that same day. In keeping with everyone’s testimony who had any contact with the father, she said he was “very angry” when he learned a report had been filed. He demanded to know who filed the report and declared from the outset that he would hire a lawyer. Ms. Rowe assured him that he would never be told who filed the report. He angrily denied every allegation. He vehemently dismissed, for example, the suggestion that his son cut Sahar’s arm when he threw a pair of scissors at her. “Do you think I would give my son permission to do that to his sister?” he remarked to Mrs. Rowe.

Other than the string of adamant denials on the part of all family members interviewed, there was little that would have assuaged Ms. Rowe’s concerns for Sahar’s well being. Yet after contacting her manager the decision was made to let Sahar go home, but with the understanding that they would conduct follow up assessments. They did so. On May 8th, Sahar was at school and on May 9th, Ms. Rowe met with Sahar again. Sahar was wearing the hijab that day. Ms. Rowe characterized Sahar as still cautious but happier. She indicated she wanted to stay at home. Somehow this was enough assurance that Sahar’s problems at her home had been satisfactorily resolved. “It was decided the child wasn’t necessarily at risk,” Mrs. Rowe testified. The file was closed.

Burned Alive

In her heartbreakingly sad memoir Burned Alive, a young Arab woman, who goes by the name Souad, writes of her life growing up in a remote village in the West Bank. From a very young age, she understood that her life would be horribly constrained by custom and violence. Her father would regularly tie her hands and feet to a pole and tape her mouth shut to prevent her from screaming out for help or in pain. He would then proceed to beat her with a cane or a belt. Souad knew that her only hope of escaping her brutalized existence was to marry a man. It was perhaps this certainty that helped to stir her love for a nearby neighbour. She first began throwing him discreet glances from her home’s terrace. He reciprocated and before long they would rendezvous in a field with tall grass in which they could remain hidden. They had sex on a few occasions. Souad was soon pregnant, but the man with whom she was in love disappeared upon hearing the news that he was the father. She endeavoured for months to conceal her pregnancy in the hope that there would be some resolution to her ordeal. But when her parents confirmed that she was with child, a decision was made to kill her. They could not tolerate the shame that their unwed daughter’s pregnancy would bring to bear on them. The family’s honour was at stake. One day, Souad’s brother-in-law doused Souad in gasoline and set her ablaze. As the flames consumed her, she ran to an area where others saw and – mercifully – helped her. They sprayed enough water to extinguish the flames and managed to get her to a hospital. She survived despite her family’s best efforts to kill her even as she was being hospitalized. In prose that is disarmingly precise, she explains to the reader the place of girls and women in her community and the role notions of shame and honour assume in her family.

Speaking of her brother, she writes, “Assad was violent like my father. He was a murderer, but that word doesn’t have any meaning in my village when it comes to having a woman killed. It is the duty of the brother, the brother-in-law, or the uncle to preserve the family’s honour. They have the right of life and death over their women. If the father or mother says to the son: ‘Your sister has sinned, you must kill her,’ he does it for the sake of honour…”

The term “honour killings” has been attached to the deaths of the daughters and Rona as soon as police suspected that they were murdered and not the victims of a tragic accident. Police soon came to believe that the four victims were murdered in order to save the family’s honour, as understood by the father.  To make the point, one of the prosecution’s last witnesses was an expert in honour killings. Shahrzad Mojab is an Iranian born professor at the University of Toronto. Mojab’s testimony constituted a powerfully effective summary of the ideas that seemingly motivated the Shafias.

“Even the assumption of non-marital relations is seen as a huge violation of the family honour….Even a rumour can cause the killing of a young woman,” Mohab testified.

Moreover, the female body is where honour is contested. Men who adhere to this system of beliefs will often seek to ruthlessly control women – wives and daughters – under their dominion. She went on to say that no one religion can be identified as the source of this phenomenon, as honour killings have been carried out among people of all the major faiths.

The female body is where honour is contested.

The defence did not have an enviable task. The recorded conversations, the physical evidence and the demonstrated motive together constituted an overwhelmingly strong body of evidence against Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed. Although they would question the alleged time line of events, the thrust of their strategy was to challenge the perception that the three accused were fundamentalists who would be motivated to uphold their family’s honour in such a ruthless fashion. During Tooba’s testimony for the defense, for example, she insisted the family was much more liberal than they have been depicted. The defence did show family photos in which the female members weren’t wearing headscarves or the hijab. They also made clear that Shafia grew up in an accomplished and seemingly liberal Afghani Muslim family. His brother is a surgeon. Others are similarly accomplished. Mohammad himself was a successful businessman who left Afghanistan with his family in order to escape the sort of tribal customs with which he was now being associated. The underlying point was clear, even though the defence never explicitly stated it. Mohammad would not kill three of his daughters and his first wife because they would not adhere to his Quran-inspired rules.

Indeed much of Tooba’s testimony was meant to reconcile the Quran’s competing dictates. Yes, she said, it was their duty as Muslims to instruct their kids in the way of their faith. But they could not force their daughters (or the rest of the family) to abide by all of its rules. Were these not the priorities of any parents who wanted their kids to retain their faith while growing up in a secular society? Similarly they were told they could not have boyfriends or get married until after they finished school. But ultimately it was their choice as to whom they would marry. Tooba recalled her uncle’s insistence that Zainab marry a relative of his. Tooba repeatedly informed him that his daughter wasn’t “chattel” and he therefore could not keep pressuring Zainab to marry this man.

Yet, most of Tooba’s testimony could not have persuaded the jury that she, Mohammad and Hamed were innocent. On the contrary, much of what she said about Mohammad only confirmed that he has a terrible temper and that the family – including Tooba herself – lived in fear of upsetting him. Tooba repeatedly suggested that she wouldn’t inform him of developments for fear of his reaction. If he was angry at someone, he would yell and constantly raise the subject long after the incident in question had passed.

In late January of this year, the jury delivered its verdict. Mohammad, Tooba and Hamed were all convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole. Most of those who gathered outside the courthouse celebrated the verdict. But the palpable sense of relief didn’t settle the questions that formed the trial’s backdrop. How could Quebec’s Youth Protection Agency close the file on Sahar with so little evidence that her home life had changed? Even without the benefit of hindsight, the decision to do so seems tragically shortsighted.

The other question to emerge from the verdict’s aftermath is perhaps less understandable. Is the term ‘honour killings’ more obfuscating than illuminating? Although it is a term most perhaps most readily associated with Islam, the violence it denotes can be observed in many different societies and under the banner of every major religion. To be sure, domestic violence is a universal problem. Yet it is pure folly to ignore the particular sets of ideas and customs that allow men to ruthlessly control and indeed snuff out the lives of women.

It was a bleak winter day when I recently walked around the Kingston Mills Locks. A strong wind was swirling, carrying with it first rain and then hail. A flock of geese was gingerly walking on the partially frozen water. At this time of year, the area has a desolate quality about it. Trees are bare, water levels in the locks are low and the visitor’s centre is boarded up. Amid the grey, however, were fresh red flowers placed where the lock ends and Colonel By Lake begins. It is also where the bodies of Rona, Zainab, Sahar and Geeti were found more than two years ago. Much time has passed, but the memory of the four women will not soon be forgotten

“A House Divided Against Itself”: The 2012 Republican Race for the White House

March 12, 2012 8:50 am
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In the summer of 1858, two years before he would become the first Republican President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln uttered a phrase that still applies when he accepted his party’s nomination as the Republican U.S. Senate candidate for the state of Illinois. At the lectern in the Springfield statehouse, referring to political issues of the day, Lincoln stated that, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Today, 154 years later, that single sentence could be used to sum up the results of Super Tuesday 2012 and, on a larger scale, the Republican Party’s continuing difficulty in finding, and then nominating, a candidate supported by all the different demographics within the GOP who could challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in this November’s presidential election.

Abraham Lincoln 1858

Super Tuesday, the first Tuesday in March of a presidential election year, is traditionally seen as both a confidence builder and a field narrower. Essentially, it is a day when ten different states hold their primary elections or caucuses to try to determine the candidate who best represents their interests in the contest to win the Republican Party presidential nomination. However, the key word here is try. For a Republican candidate, the first real test in the road to the White House hinges on the ability to gather the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination. Super Tuesday is seen as crucial in this race since there is a total of 419 delegates up for grabs in the ten states on that one day. Furthermore, the demographic cross-section of the states voting on Super Tuesday is perceived as a microcosm for the voting habits of many of the other states in the union.

Nevertheless, the most important state from a candidate’s point of view is Ohio. Ohio is seen as having one of the closest and most representational demographic samples of the entire country. As the saying goes, to win the presidency, you must win in Ohio. While former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney did indeed win Ohio — albeit only by an extremely small margin — alongside Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Alaska and Idaho, Romney is still facing stiff opposition from former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a more polarizing candidate, who won three states on Super Tuesday: North Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Although Romney remains the frontrunner for the party’s nomination, many inside and outside the Republican Party continue to question his legitimacy as a conservative. The former Massachusetts governor is often labeled as being too moderate. Despite the fact that Romney has won the greatest number of delegates to date and consistently polls better than any of the other Republican contenders against President Obama, he continues to frustrate the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, including the Tea Party movement: a sure sign that the field will not be narrowed anytime soon.

Santorum, Romney, Gingrich and Paul

Instead, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — the four remaining candidates — will all likely stay in the race, continue to trade punches and to air their dirty laundry through negative attack advertisements perhaps until the Republican Convention in August of this year. On the Democratic side, such a prolonged nomination process occurred just four years ago when Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama fought each other well beyond Super Tuesday until Obama eventually won the nomination. Many would argue that the lengthy nomination process in 2008 strengthened Obama as a candidate for the general election. The jury is still out on whether the ongoing Republican races will have the same effect on Mitt Romney if he does eventually win the Republican Party’s nomination.

The reason why this is less certain for Romney is that, for the time being, the Republican Party appears to be a “house divided against itself.” Romney is having trouble winning over the more conservative voters as well as many blue-collar voters which is translating into hard-won primaries and caucuses in states outside of the Eastern seaboard. At the other end of the spectrum, Rick Santorum is running strong in the blue-collar and more conservative Mid Western states. The victory of Tea Party favorite, Georgia native and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, seems to be limited to the Southern states.

Santorum and Romney

Unless one of these candidates is able to obtain the required 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination before the Republican convention in August, there is a possibility that no nominee will have been elected, thus splitting the Republican Party along clear geographic and demographic lines, with no one candidate being able to appeal to all factions. This is a dream come true for President Obama and the Democratic Party. It would result in a brokered convention in which delegates would need to be divvied up or swapped and political horse-trading would be required so that one candidate would have enough delegates to win the nomination. The other wildcard in such a scenario would be to parachute in another candidate capable of uniting the Republican Party in a way that none of the four candidates have, up until now, been able to do. In either case, a brokered convention would reduce the prospects that a Republican candidate could defeat the incumbent president.

And so, the Republican Party’s nomination process continues: primary after primary and caucus after caucus. Unless the Republican Party’s coalition of voters coalesces around one of the four candidates in the race, Abraham Lincoln’s prophetic warning could come to describe his own political party, costing his party the White House.

 

Ottawa Life Interviews NDP Candidate Niki Ashton

March 8, 2012 5:27 pm
ashton feature

Editor’s Note: New Democratic Party leadership candidates Thomas Mulcair, Brian Topp, Martin Singh and Nathan Cullen did not respond to Ottawa Life Magazine’s request for an interview.

Niki Ashton (born September 9, 1982) is currently the New Democratic Member of Parliament for the electoral district of Churchill in Manitoba. She was first elected in the 2008 federal election.

A resident of Thompson, Manitoba, she is the daughter of Manitoba provincial NDP cabinet minister Steve Ashton and has been an instructor at the University College of the North. In 2005, Niki Ashton defeated incumbent NDP Member of Parliament Bev Desjarlais for the NDP nomination due, in part, to the same-sex marriage issue after Desjarlais broke party ranks to vote against the Civil Marriage Act. Desjarlais subsequently quit the party and sat as an independent for the remainder of her term; she ran against Ashton as an independent candidate in the election in Churchill in the 2006 Canadian federal election. Some of Ashton’s major themes in her campaign were obtaining federal funding for the University College of the North, as well as a federal government northern development agreement.

Although the labour unions in Thompson endorsed Ashton, the NDP vote nevertheless split between Ashton and Desjarlais, and the riding was won by Liberal Party candidate Tina Keeper. Ashton defeated Keeper in the 2008 election to regain the riding for the NDP.

On November 7, 2011, in Montreal, Niki Ashton launched her campaign as the ninth person to join the NDP leadership race.

OTTAWA LIFE: Do you think that balancing the federal budget is important? If so, why… and if not, why not?

NDP Candidate Niki Ashton

NIKI ASHTON: Balancing the budget is definitely important. Every penny spent on servicing debt is a penny taken out of the pockets of hard-working Canadian families and funnelled into the pockets of bondholders, bankers and speculators. It is a transfer of wealth and a transfer of power from poor and middle-income families to the rich who then get to dictate terms to governments and the citizens who elect those governments.

I come from a region of the country – the Prairies – where NDP governments have a long and proud history of balancing budgets and protecting the capacity of government to respond to the needs of their citizens. I would bring that same approach to the federal level.

This does not mean that I support austerity measures that inflict the greatest pain on those who can least afford it. I have said throughout my campaign for Leader that growing inequality is the greatest challenge confronting us as a country, and we cannot afford to make that worse in the name of fiscal restraint. Too often in Canada and around the world, governments have cut taxes for banks and oil companies and then used that reduced fiscal capacity as an excuse to cut services and supports for the rest of us. Fiscal discipline should begin with fair taxation, starting by closing the tax loopholes that don’t create new jobs or provide any tangible social benefit. We also need to look at creative ways to use monetary policy to finance needed improvements in infrastructure.

OTTAWA LIFE: What are your views on Old Age Pension reform by the Harper government?

NIKI ASHTON: I oppose plans to raise the qualifying age for Old Age Security benefits. It’s true that there will be a demographic bulge in the system, but cutting benefits for future retirees is not the way to address it. A better way to address it is to improve the Canada Pension Plan for all Canadians, as New Democrats have proposed.

I also have to comment on efforts by the Harper government to try to turn Old Age Security into a generational issue. This is typical of the old kind of politics practiced by Stephen Harper – pitting groups of Canadians against one another so he can cut benefits to everyone. The biggest losers for what the Conservatives are proposing are people from my generation and future generations who will have to work longer and will receive fewer benefits. To paraphrase an American general from the Vietnam War, the Conservatives are proposing to destroy the pension system in order to save it.

" I believe in reducing Canada’s national debt as a share of GDP over time."

Moreover, the Conservatives’ attack on the public pension system is part of a broader erosion of pensions. More and more corporations are targeting defined benefit pensions by making young workers ineligible for the type of benefits other workers have enjoyed. There is increasing evidence that my generation and future generations will be worse off than our parents’ generation. It was not supposed to be this way. It does not have to be this way. People from all generations need to come together to defend our pension system.

OTTAWA LIFE: What are your views on reducing Canada’s national debt, now at about $583 billion?

NIKI ASHTON: I believe in reducing Canada’s national debt as a share of GDP over time. I also subscribe to the view that governments should spend to stimulate the economy during times of recession and run surpluses and reduce debt during times of prosperity. Canada’s economy is still fragile. This is the wrong time to be making major spending cuts as the Harper government is proposing to do in the upcoming budget.

Even in times of prosperity, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about cutting spending. There is a direct link between greater economic inclusion and equality and lasting economic prosperity. Too often, governments have sown the seeds for a future economic downturn by making cuts and pursuing policies that increase inequality and exclude large numbers of people from the benefits of our economy.

If we want to reduce the national debt, we need to start by cutting tax expenditures that don’t create jobs—just ask the workers at the Caterpillar plant in London how well that works—or provide tangible social or environmental benefits. Do we really need to go on subsidizing the extraction and export of raw resources?

We need to cut military spending. And we need to look at ways we can use monetary policy to finance investments in transportation infrastructure.

OTTAWA LIFE: Should a percentage of GDP be spent on Canada’s military each year? If not, then do you believe American armed forces should protect the security of our Arctic regions?

NIKI ASHTON: New Democrats have an honourable history in terms of peace. We opposed the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan. Jack Layton and the NDP fought for years to support Canadian troops by bringing them back home from Afghanistan. We must keep them home, and give them the respect and new opportunities they deserve. We owe our veterans and their families ongoing support to deal with all injuries incurred overseas, including and especially PTSD.

But we can’t just talk about peace and we can’t just provide a slightly different approach: there is too much at stake.

"Even in times of prosperity, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about cutting spending."

In government, the NDP should conduct a public defence policy review… then redefine the Forces’ roles and needs accordingly.

I believe the Forces should focus on defending Canada and providing humanitarian assistance to people facing catastrophic emergencies – from earthquakes to floods to forest fires – throughout Canada and internationally.

I do not believe that the militarization of the Arctic is the priority of Canadians living in the Arctic, nor does it reflect Canada’s interest in international cooperation and the rule of law.

OTTAWA LIFE: Should Canada purchase F-35 fighter jets – 65 of them for $9 billion?

NIKI ASHTON: I am opposed to the purchase of the F-35 fighter jets—whether they cost $9 billion or, as has been suggested, a much higher figure.

OTTAWA LIFE: Would you do anything different than the Tories with regard to a National Agricultural Policy?

NIKI ASHTON: I’ve outlined a clear vision to ensure rural Canadians share in the benefits of the wealth they create. The decline of rural communities is another indication of the growing inequality in Stephen Harper’s Canada.

As the only Opposition MP representing a rural riding on the Prairies, I’ve seen first-hand how Stephen Harper takes farm families for granted. He encourages divisions between rural and urban Canadians, between Westerners and people in other parts of the country. But he’s done nothing to address the decline of rural communities, or the growing inequality between rural and urban Canada. He’s done nothing to fight the dominance of big Canadian grain companies and shippers who will benefit from the Wheat Board’s demise.

We need an approach that ensures all communities and regions are included in Canada’s economic growth. A new politics that sees primary producers and rural communities as part of our future, not our past, as full players in our economy and as a vital part of greater Canadian society.

My plan to build an economy that includes rural Canadians includes directing more federal funds for regional economic development to community-based organizations so  communities can decide for themselves how to rebuild their local economies; allowing producers to vote on the future of producer marketing boards, rather than letting such decisions be made in Ottawa or at international trade talks; strengthening and enforcing regulations on foreign investment to protect Canadian jobs; encouraging New Generation Co-ops to give producers a chance to get a bigger share of the profits that are made off their crops (New Generation Co-operatives in other places have given farmers a guaranteed market for some of their primary production and a share of the profit that comes from adding value to their production.); supporting shortline rail and other producer-driven solutions that reduce the cost of transporting their goods to market; ensuring rural communities have access to clean, safe, affordable drinking water, health care providers including family doctors and nurse practitioners, mail service through Canada Post, and relevant news and information by maintaining CBC bureaus in northern and rural communities.

OTTAWA LIFE: Do you believe in national health standards for all provinces? Should Quebec be given special treatment, allowing it to be the only province that can impose health care user fees in violation of the National Health Act?

NIKI ASHTON: I do not believe that Quebec needs to opt out of the Canada Health Act in order to protect its jurisdiction over health care. Our party has always opposed user fees for health care, or anything that creates barriers that might prevent some people from being able to access health care when they need it. That is my position, as well.

Paul Dewar: He’s in to Win!

March 2, 2012 7:50 pm
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Paul W. Dewar, 48, New Democratic Party Member of Parliament for the riding of Ottawa Centre, is running a spirited campaign for the hotly contested leadership of the NDP in the wake of the untimely death of Jack Layton in August 2011. On May 2, 2011, Layton led his party to an historic and unexpected win and onto the benches of the Official Opposition, formerly occupied by the decimated Liberal Party (once known as Canada’s Natural Governing Party). An ‘orange crush’ swept over Quebec and the NDP caucus nearly tripled in size, swelling to 103 MPs. So the conventional wisdom is that the new leader should reflect this electoral shift and hail from Quebec. But hometown boy Dewar (first elected to the House of Commons in 2006) disputes that assertion. He’s in this race to win, as he told Ottawa Life in a lively interview that took place at his office in the Confederation Building on February 3.

On October 2, 2011, Dewar announced his candidacy for the party leadership. Since then, he’s been running full throttle. Dewar is considered among the leading candidates in the leadership race. His Achilles’ heel is his halting French, but he is determined to become fluent in Canada’s second official language. Anyway, it’s no big deal: Dewar is at the same level of French Stephen Harper was at when he became Prime Minister in 2006. The NDP leadership convention will be held March 23-24 in Toronto.

OTTAWA LIFE: You’re obviously running to win. Tell us what makes you the best man for the job.

PAUL DEWAR: I think the next leader of our party has to be someone who has experience on the doorstep, on the national and international stage, and someone who can connect with people in the regions right across this country. I think I’m the best person for that, no question, in terms of my experience. I have been the party’s foreign affairs critic since 2007. The next leader of the NDP and the next Prime Minster must have those international skills. I think we also need a leader who loves people, and I think I’m best suited for that (aspect of the) job.

OTTAWA LIFEQuébec is important in this race. What does Paul Dewar have to offer Québecers?

PAUL DEWAR: If members in Québec look at what I’ve done since being elected, they’ll see that I’ve reached out to Québeckers right across the (Ottawa River), supporting NDP candidates in Gatineau and other Québec ridings. What I offer is my experience in connecting with people to build up grass roots. The leader must be out there working with the grass roots to build up our capacity on the ground. For the next election, we need a good team in place in every riding where we hold a seat, as well as making sure that those MPs are going to be household names. I understand Québec. I am very close to Québec geographically. My belief is that we need to show Québecers what we have in common. Many of our policies are very similar to the philosophy of many Québecers. The idea of the role of government and (the importance of ) foreign affairs and the environment… these are all aspects of our party platform that connected with Québeckers during our campaign with Jack Layton. We have to continue that, not take it for granted and make sure we’re not pandering. We will continue to develop a mature relationship with Québec, because let’s face it, the last federal election saw le grand changement. Québec just wanted to change what had been. They swept out the Bloc québécois and looked to us. We have to continue to earn the respect of Québec and develop that relationship.

OTTAWA LIFE: You recently announced proposals for building a more caring Canada. Tell us about your plan to help Canadian families make ends meet and lift our most vulnerable citizens out of poverty. Do you think that ordinary Canadians have never been more threatened by dire economic circumstances, job loss, poverty, loss of their homes, poor health, bankruptcy, as they are now?

PAUL DEWAR:You’d have to go back to the 1930s and the Great Depression to see such misery and financial insecurity as we now see in Canada. It’s quite extraordinary to see the lack of opportunity for many of our fellow citizens… the crushing poverty. Household debt right now is 153 per cent. In 2008, it was 123 per cent. And meanwhile, corporations have excess profits and they’re not investing. Caterpillar is leaving London, and we gave these guys $5 million in financial incentives. The priorities are out of whack here. When I talk about a more caring Canada, I fundamentally believe most Canadians want to see us take better care of each other. I believe strongly in a mixed economy but the government has a role to ensure that there’s fairness and we haven’t seen that.

We have students graduating with debts of $40,000 or $50,000. Unemployment is still stuck at 1.3 million and as many are underemployed. We are seeing a widening inequality gap in the fastest- growing economy among OECD countries. More people must decide whether to pay the rent or pay for their medicines. Many people are just a paycheck away from going bankrupt. I don’t think the Harper government fully realizes this growing income disparity. Small businesses barely got by the 2008 decline in the market; they’re trying to make ends meet and they are not getting any support from government, seemingly. They have to pay extra for credit card fees, while at the same time they are dealing with a downturn in market share. Someone asked me the other day: “Paul, are people angry out there?” I said: “Yeah, they’re a bit angry but they’re disassociated. They’ve almost given up on government. We have to deal with the question of inequality and crushing poverty. We can’t afford not to. Poverty is costing us too much.

This method we have now of downloading responsibilities on charities is simply not sustainable. Just take a look at basic needs like healthcare. Every single community I visit, there’s a crisis in homecare. Right now, the Ottawa Hospital has 15 per cent of its beds taken by people who don’t want to be there and shouldn’t be there, because we don’t have proper home care. And the Prime Minister tells the provinces: “Here’s our offer, take it or leave it.” And it’s not going to deal with homecare at all. And it’s not going to solve the crisis in our healthcare system. We’ve lost our imagination here on how to solve problems, while more and more people are falling behind. We see more and more people at the top accumulating more, while even greater numbers of people slip through the cracks.

Clearly, there’s a role here for government. There are smart things the government can do. When it comes to dealing with poverty, we must collapse all these federal and provincial programs and provide income security for larger numbers of Canadians. The savings in administrative costs would be enormous and benefit low-income Canadians. A guaranteed annual income supplement is one of our party’s main priorities. So we should collapse these programs to directly help families and seniors. We need more Homecare and Pharmacare. These are things we can do to deal with crushing poverty and growing inequality.

OTTAWA LIFE: In your opinion, are the federal Conservatives adopting policies that directly threaten ordinary Canadians, whether young or old, adding to the National Anxiety Index, so to speak?

PAUL DEWAR: I like the way that’s put. The Conservative debate is framed as: “We can’t afford this. You’re on your own. No one’s going to be able to help you.” Whether you’re a senior, a student, an unemployed worker, there isn’t anything coming from the Harper government other than: “Lower your expectations. Figure it out on your own.” There is no safety net for millions of Canadians. It bears repeating that the Conservatives have been giving inducements to the very large corporations that don’t have to pay the same level of taxes as everyday people, because prosperity was supposed to trickle down to the masses. But this didn’t happen while the safety net was being taken apart. And the bonuses and inducements are going to the people at the top and the corporations at the top, and it ain’t trickling down! I believe that most Canadians feel that government just isn’t working for them.

OTTAWA LIFE: How can Canada afford your proposed social and health programs at a time of national belt- tightening? For example, the country can no longer afford an immigration policy based on family reunification, which you advocate. The new trend is to move away from humanitarian concerns and favor “business class” immigrants who would be an asset to Canada’s economy, or skilled tradespeople who would help to fill shortages of skilled workers in Canada. What are your views on this?

PAUL DEWAR: On the family reunification issue, I would argue the following point. This could at least be neutral if not save money and here’s why. Many immigrant families are sending remittances out of this country like you wouldn’t believe. People from Sri Lanka or Central Africa or Somalia (or wherever) are sending billions of dollars out of Canada to help their families get by. Well, I’d like to repatriate that money as well as the people who are in those families.

Another thing: many business-class immigrants come here just to buy real estate. Is that really what we need strategically now? It’s a very hot market. Is that the strategy here? I don’t know. It’s just insane, the cost of real estate in some cities. Are we just going to bring in more people to invest in real estate or do we opt for strategic investment in key areas of the economy where we need capitalization and where we need to bring in more trained workers?

There are key areas in the economy where we need capitalization: we need more trained workers. On that note, we are now bringing in tens of thousands of foreign-trained workers… into places like Fort McMurray for the oilsands. At a time when we have 1.3 million unemployed Canadians, why aren’t we coordinating skills and job training across this country? We’re not. So before we open the floodgates to skilled workers, which I’m happy to do if it’s done smartly and strategically, we also need to coordinate skills and jobs training. That is a huge void right now and it’s in every province I go to. We have a skills shortage right now and it’s going to get worse, but there is no coordination. Between Employment Insurance programs, colleges and training facilities, and businesses, we need to get our act together. Training of the person must be connected to a job and to an industry.

Paul Dewar: He’s in to Win! Cover photo: Paul Couvrette

Government, business and labor must work together towards the same end. There must be jobs associated with the training, before we open the floodgates to skilled immigrants. There is a great model in terms of immigration settlement: the Nominee Program out of Manitoba. The principle is to coordinate the immigrant’s skills with labour market needs and then connect the two. The skilled immigrants are being directed to smaller towns where a job awaits them… to help boost the local economy. It’s a very strategic approach to linking skilled immigrants with jobs, instead of dumping them in a big city and letting them fend for themselves. This directing new Canadians to small towns for employment purposes isn’t really a new approach. It’s how we settled the West! There is also disproportionate unemployment among First Nations’ youth. This is a problem that must be dealt with, as First Nations are the fastest growing demographic in the country. Fifty percent of First Nations are 26 and under. First Nations’ youth also have the highest suicide rate in Canada, so it seems to me that this is an area we should be focused on.

OTTAWA LIFE: As Leader of the Opposition, how will you handle the gathering economic storm? What would you say to entrepreneurs and business people in Canada about your ability to manage the nation’s finances as a potential future Prime Minister?

PAUL DEWAR: You have to do your homework and dig into all the facts. When I look at our economy right now, I see that household debt is not sustainable. It’s very precarious right now. We need to figure out how we can alleviate household debt in this country. We must also invest in capitalization in many of our businesses and diversify our economy. We have to alleviate the tax burden on small and medium-sized businesses. We have to be responsible in our taxation for large corporations. Ramping it down to 15 per cent when Canada already offers the lowest corporate taxes among the G-7 nations doesn’t make sense to me. We want to drive investments towards transforming our economy. Innovation and research and development are actually a matrix of failed policies, particularly when we look at R&D tax credits. Just looking at the federal government’s own report on innovation, I would completely change the way it’s being done in this country.

As Prime Minister, I would put more focus on public investment that will lead to private development and patents. This is not happening. Three quarters of our investment right now is into R&D tax credits. This leads to companies tinkering with R&D to justify receiving the credits… and we see the results. Germany doesn’t offer any of those R&D tax credits. It believes in good solid public innovation research groups connected to universities linked to companies after patents are designed. This approach has been hugely successful, spurring all sorts of development, particularly in new energy that is coming out of R&D investment dollars. Many of these ideas are patented and turned into products. So as PM, I would change the tax structure to reward the job creators, change the way we structure our investments in strategic areas and look at revamping R&D in this country so we get more innovation and job creation.

OTTAWA LIFE: What is your military policy? Should Canada have a strong military independent from the USA? Would you boost Canada’s military presence in the northern territories to give our claims to sovereignty in that area some teeth?

PAUL DEWAR: I believe in an independent foreign policy. Right now, it’s pretty scattered or just a dim echo of Washington’s. I’ll invest in our military so we get back in the game of patrolling our borders (especially in the North), invest in people and military assets in the North. As for the F-35 jet fighter, not only do we not know the cost, we’re not sure if it actually functions north of 60! We should be involved in peacekeeping again. I’ve had discussions with generals about this. I know that peacekeeping is different than it was; it’s not the same as Cyprus. But this doesn’t mean peacekeeping still is not a valid investment for us and for the world.

We’ve been asked three times in the last four years to invest in peacekeeping in the Congo and we’ve said no. The Congolese need our professionalism. They’re not asking for thousands of troops. They’re asking for our professional officer class who know how to conduct peacekeeping in a way that is going to be effective. Right now, we’re 53rd in our contributions to peacekeeping. The void is being filled by developing countries as revenue streams. I don’t believe Canada needs more militaristic muscle in the world today. What we need is smart diplomacy, effective peacekeeping and development that is going to be innovative on the ground to help people with their own economies, buttressing the adaptation to climate change, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. They have a severe drought problem there due to the effects of climate change.

OTTAWA LIFE: What do you think of (Bank of Canada Governor) Mark Carney and the Bank of Canada’s policies?

PAUL DEWAR: I’m actually a fan of Mark Carney. He’s a very bright guy. He raises questions that typically Bank of Canada Governors don’t bring up, like household debt and exposing concerns within the economy. The way he phrases it is very diplomatic and genteel, but also warning… and saying: “Here’s the state of affairs right now and where we’re heading.” Carney practices realpolitik and is very well respected among his colleagues internationally. And that’s important because we have to deal with what’s been happening in Europe and the United States. You no longer can just hunker down and look at your own economy and say: “We’re okay.” There’s a confluence like never before. I appreciate his acumen there.

I believe in balanced budgets. If you’re going to have a national debt, you’ll be paying down the debt and won’t be able to invest in people. There are times when you have to do deficit financing. People ask if the NDP can manage the store. That’s one of our biggest challenges. But we’ll follow the money and see where it goes. I can tell you… watching the Conservatives in power, everything they do – the soaring costs of the F-35s, to the download in the cost of new prisons, Tony Clement showering millions of dollars around his backyard, their lack of response and attentiveness towards the warnings of (Parliamentary Budget

Officer) Kevin Page, I would assert that they actually aren’t managing the store well. The Conservatives are simply benefiting from the policies of previous governments and our well capitalized and regulated banks. There was a time when Stephen Harper and many other conservatives were pushing for merging of the banks and deregulation of our financial system. Thankfully, we didn’t go down that path. There was a lot of pressure on the Liberal government to go that route… and there was some deregulation in allowing for banks to do some other financial investing. Some have argued concerns around that, but thankfully we didn’t go the path of the United States, which led to the 2008 financial meltdown, from which the US is still recovering.

What would the Conservatives have done if they had been in power in the 90s? I’m sure they would have merged the banks and deregulated and we would have some of the challenges they’re having south of the border because of it. We have to be strong as New Democrats and social democrats to say – look what we’ve done in the past in provinces like Manitoba, where prudent fiscal management was the order of the day. We need balanced budgets because we want to make sure that people will trust us with their money, that the money is going to be invested in people and not just debt financing, because that’s money you can’t invest in health care and education.

*photos by Paul Couvrette*

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