Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Does Anyone Blog Anymore?

It's been almost three years to the day since the BlackBerry Addicts' last blog post.

All this time we thought Twitter was just a fad, and that ultimately blogging would reign supreme.  Who knew Twitter was here to stay?

With the passage of time we've certainly grown to miss McFadyen, shutter at the prospect of Pallister, but nothing is making us more weary than Selinger...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

D'oh! I'll Probably Do it Again!

When Mr. McFadyen not only lost the 2007 election but also shrunk his caucus from 20 to 19, the first word out of his mouth was, "Ouch!".

It was, without a shadow of doubt, a terrible loss for the young, sweater wearing, Jets promising Opposition Leader.

Not only did he not make any progress toward forming government, he actually moved his party and his caucus backward.

As early as the morning of May 23, 2011, Mr. McFadyen had a chance to begin restructuring his party in order to chip away at an increasingly fortified NDP majority. This opportunity, in fact, really began when Mr. McFadyen took over the leadership of the party from Mr. Stuart Murray.

But he blew it. And he blew a four year opportunity to redefine himself and his party into something Manitobans could know and trust, the only real chance he had of defeating the NDP.

To the benefit of all pundits and media, the Blackberry Addicts would like to provide the top five reasons why Mr. McFadyen and the Conservatives should lose the election tomorrow:

First, Mr. McFadyen used an election period to fundamentally redefine, unveil, and then try to communicate, a "new" McFadyen and a "new" Conservative party. This is work that takes significantly more time than a short writ period can provide.

Second, Mr. McFadyen surprised the electorate with policies they weren't expecting from him or his party. In 1999, a lot was made of Mr. Filmon's 50-50 plan. What made this promise publicly unpalatable, in the end, was that its boldness and risk was so uncharacteristic of a calculating and conservative Premier who most Manitobans had grown to know, understand, and trust.

Similarly, Mr. McFadyen surprised his party and right-of-center voters by promising to spend big money on doctors and nurses ($118 million), long-term care ($200 million), and extend deficit financing until 2018.

Mr. Selinger, on the other hand, continued throughout the campaign to promise and do things people recognized and trusted from an NDP government and Premier. Being "bold" in an election means doing things the public doesn't want you to do. The NDP understands this. Mr. McFadyen and the Winnipeg Chamber do not.

Furthermore, the Blackberry Addicts believe quite strongly that Mr. McFadyen's characterization of Mr. Filmon's decisions as "mistakes of the past" disillusioned many statesmen within the Conservative party. Just take a quick look at what Mr. Sandy Riley had to say about Mr. Filmon's record!

Third, Mr. McFadyen simply could not crack the greatest strength going for the NDP: their record of good government. As much as pundits and media try to underscore an omnipresence of bad government, this simply isn't the case in the eyes of the public. Mr. McFadyen's strategy of keeping himself and his caucus quiet throughout the spring and summer while waiting for the NDP to screw up was, in the end, a terrible mistake, and one the Blackberry Addicts and Karl Rove have written about in the past.

Fourth, a convergence of public issues driving voters to "kick the bums out" never materialized. Without the ability to ride a public wave demanding change, there is little hope of major victory.

Fifth, as the Blackberry Addicts pointed out a year ago at E-365, Mr. McFadyen is faced with the challenge of winning ten seats. This monumental challenge is further complicated by the fact the NDP holds huge pluralities in many of the seats Mr. McFadyen has to win making this year's "general election" essentially 57 independent by-elections.

Good luck to all pundits tomorrow. The Blackberry Addicts wish you all the best as you try to apply political science and reason to what is essentially an unscientific and emotional exercise. We just know you won't disappoint us.

And, in the end, always vote Quimby. He'd vote for you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Always Beware the Probe!

In the coming days, the Winnipeg Free Press will publish election survey results from Probe Research.

It's almost guaranteed that very general questions will have been asked in the survey, and it's almost guaranteed that Scott McKay, Chris Adams, and maybe even Curtis Brown will be quoted extensively on why they think the data is the way it is.

For an otherwise credible research company, it has always fascinated the Blackberry Addicts the extent to which researchers themselves provide their own personal opinions on why the public appears to think the way they think rather than actually researching why the public thinks the way they think.

Nobody pays a research company for the opinions of researchers, and it's always a hoot to read the Free Press extensively quote Scott McKay et al on why Scott McKay et al think the public thinks a certain way when they didn't even bother asking why.

Nevertheless, Mr. Dan Lett has devoted an entire blog post arguing Probe's upcoming survey results will be the definitive survey of the campaign. And readers should expect the Free Press to make a big deal out of the results.

It's been rare, in fact, for Probe to accurately predict recent election results.

In the 2007 election, the NDP won 48 percent of the popular vote. Probe's quarterly polls leading up to the 2007 general election were off between 8 and 12 percent.
  • June 2006 = 38%
  • September 2006 = 36%
  • December 2006 = 38%
  • March 2007 = 40%
And we all remember what happened in 2003 when Probe thought the NDP was at 57%, right? Probe was wrong.

So, take the upcoming Probe survey results with a gigantic grain of salt everyone.

And, most importantly, always beware the probe even if it's only presented as a bunch of questions!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why Does McFadyen Hate Dakota Community Centre?

When former Premier Gary Doer stood with Southdale candidate Erin Selby and promised to expand the Southdale Recreation Centre during the 2007 election campaign, the Winnipeg Free Press printed this headline the day following the announcement:

According to Grandpa Kives and Mary Agnes Welch, Mr. Doer's promise "circumvented a long, torturous process governing the distribution of scarce funds for improving community centres".

Please note.... this process was both "long" and "torturous". You can imagine the dungeon in which bureaucrats slaved day in and day out figuring where to spend all that frozen property tax revenue.

Anyway, flash forwarding to today, you'd think any politician brave enough to promise something similar would have been held to the same standard by the Winnipeg Free Press.

Apparently not.

Mr. McFadyen has made two recreation announcements recently. One dealing with the St. James Civic Centre. The other a commitment to build a brand new multiplex somewhere in south Winnipeg.

Interestingly, the "long" and "torturous" process undertaken by the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres didn't end up short listing either of the projects promised by Mr. McFadyen. Neither the St. James Civic Centre nor the multiplex in south Winnipeg were identified by General Council directors on their short list. The Southdale and Winakwa proposals however, both supported by Mr. Doer in 2007, are identified.

One the proposals, in fact, included in the final short list is Dakota Community Centre, technically located in Riel but serving Seine River, two Conservative targets that Ms. Rochelle Squires and Mr. Gord Steeves must win.

It's interesting how Ms. Squires and Mr. Steeves have allowed Mr. McFadyen to ignore all the "long" and "torturous" work city council bureaucrats have done in supporting and ultimately short listing the Dakota Community Centre proposal.

The Blackberry Addicts strongly encourage Ms. Melnick and Ms. Oswald to remind constituents of Riel and Seine River that Mr. McFadyen has deliberately left Riel, Seine River, and Dakota Community Club, the home ice of NHL star Mr. Jonathan Toews, behind in this election.

And the Free Press, including Catherine Mitchell, should stand up for the "long" and "torturous" process they so fiercely defended in 2007. And, on this note, when did Catherine Mitchell suddenly embrace Hugh McFadyen's new Conservatism anyway?

Shame on all of these participants.

(Winnipeg Free Press, April 27, 2007)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

When A Nurse Speaks in an Election, Does Anyone Hear?

In an official news release issued late last week, Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) called on all political parties to clarify where they stand on pensions.

More specifically, they called on the Progressive Conservatives to clarify whether or not they support the existing defined-benefit pension plan for nurses or a shift toward a defined-contribution pension plan.

The news release hardly made a ripple on the provincial election stage.

This is most unfortunate for a host of reasons.

First, any media outlet or pundit with a shred of political intuition should never discount any union representing over 11,000 workers. This is especially true when those 11,000 workers are nurses who have the ability to bring the entire provincial health system to a grinding halt.

Second, mainstream media should get their heads out of Twitter, off Facebook, and actually take a look around at what's happening in the world today.

If you believe economists and leading economic indices, we're approaching the brink of another economic collapse. Savings accounts, personal investments, homes, currencies and, yes, pension plans, are all on the road to ruin should a repeat of 2008 be in the cards. And yet, in this context, a union calling for clarity in where political parties stand on pensions is largely ignored. Shame.

Third, take a look at what's happening in the world of corporate pension funds right now (and since 2008). Just yesterday, the Royal Bank of Canada is reported to have axed its long-held defined-benefit pension plan, and replaced it with a defined-contribution plan for new hires.

This is the exact same issue on which the MNU is seeking clarity!

Pensions, how they're structured, and how they're managed are all extremely relevant, and incredibly political.

Lastly, Mr. McFadyen has been openly reported as wanting a "freer Manitoba" and wanting a larger role for "private" investment. It's not clear what Mr. McFadyen means by a "freer" Manitoba, but it would be very entertaining to see how he rationalizes a "free" Manitoba while at the same time supporting a defined-benefit pension plan for nurses.

So, when a nurse speaks in an election, does anyone hear?

They certainly should, but it appears Mr. McFadyen is largely ignoring them.

In politics, all rhetoric eventually becomes reality, and beginning the morning of Wednesday October 5 nurse pensions could end up becoming a hollow shell of what they once were.

Let's hope they won't let that happen despite being ignored.