An excellent journalist on the future of the newspaper

Three excellent blog posts by Paul Willcocks on the fate of the newspaper:  what went wrong and what can go right.  Read all three posts and start thinking.

A couple of things that that occurred to me:  Isn’t the ownership model an important aspect of what kind of information we seek?

And Paul writes that it’s time to experiment broadly.  I agree, although I don’t think that’s the kind of thing that happens without the commitment of deep pockets and that’s just not available to media in Canada, right now.

Still, it seems to me that the big fail in media and the place it’s least likely to experiment but most important to do so is in investigative journalism.  You can count the number of stories in the entire country on one hand that are being generated through a commitment to investigative journalism. (BTW the Globe’s coverage of Harper’s northern tour strikes a new low.  How close are they sleeping in that tent?).  But the need for the same just in the Senate is obvious.

Posted in BC Politics | 3 Comments

Just another lifer speaking out

Ray McCarthy – the husband of the welfare minister Grace McCarthy – was on our phone, working a real estate deal.  And he was screwing up the ribbon cutting for our new sheltered workshop serving mental health clients in the downtown area.  We needed a good opening shot for the workshop. McCarthy and his wife, the minister responsible, could have cared less what we needed that day.

I ran that sheltered workshop.  It was my first job in mental health and in hindsight it was just another measly half measure that didn’t put the tiniest dent into Vancouver’s emerging mental health crisis.

But what I took away from that ribbon cutting day 35 years ago was that these people, these hurt and sick people, meant little to the government responsible for their care.

‘These people” meant more to me.  My mother was one of them.  She lived in poverty in sub-standard rooms suffering from over-treated and under-treated depression for most of her life, until she took it two years later in 1980.

The health care system that confronted my mother did nothing to help her.  Worse, the government and its cuts and priorities harmed her and everyone in the same boat.  Changing that meant changing where I spent my time and energies.

But I didn’t want to just talk about it.  I got involved in politics to do something, to make sure mental health services began to meet needs and were funded, not just talked about.

That’s one view of what the BC NDP needs to be.  There are others.

For example, I’ve just finished reading an email from Corky Evans posted on Mark Lieren-Young’s blog.  Evans believes we’ve lost our way and the evidence is that we are no longer a movement but now an institution.  As he says, “ The only way I can think of to describe our problem is to say the Movement that we were has become the Institution that we are.”

Former MLA Corky Evans

Evans doesn’t send me his emails.   But I see myself sprinkled throughout this one, from my run as Director of Polling and Outreach for the Premier’s office in the nineties as well as my spell serving Carole James, first as Director of Policy and then as her Chief of Staff.

I spent long days presenting strategic plans, communication plans and the information and analysis to support them while Evans sat in the southeast corner of the Caucus room and laughed at me and others like me, entertaining his courtiers while summarily dismissing anything I had to say.

Why?  Because I believe in everything Evans disapproves of.  When it comes to campaigning, I think it’s our duty to do what we can to win.  I believe in a professional party.  I believe in polling, focus groups, opposition research, GOTV, targeting, data bundling and management, message development, talking points – the whole damn thing. And I believe in doing it well.  As best we can.

And I believe in this because people who need a social democratic government, and everything that stands for, need us to win and then govern well and long.

Evans thinks this is evil.  Poison.  The spawn of the devil.  He is completely opposed to the constraints this puts on politicians like him, who want to speak their mind no matter what it contains.

“The message box… is not discourse.  It is poison, like drinking the Kool-aid at Jonestown” Evans argues.

Evans believes all politics, including campaigns, are about what the politician wants to say. I couldn’t disagree more.

My interest is clear.   It’s been clear since that day in 1978 when Ray and Grace McCarthy came to the sheltered workshop.  I want the “institution” that is the BC NDP to win elections and become a government that would take on the issues we care about because they make a real difference in the lives of the people who need change.

I don’t understand what Evans thinks the NDP’s job is because in his email he begs off, making an argument claiming with that well worn false humility “I do not know how to fix this.  I could not write a tract entitled ‘What is to be done’, because I do not know.”

But then a line later he does offer a prescription.  We should talk more.  Especially people like himself.

According to Evans people like me, on the contrary, should engage in a little self criticism, say we’re sorry for the message box, pardon ourselves for trying to win, admit to writing ads that bell the cat that is the BC Liberal Party.  It’s time we break a little solidarity and wallow in our own thoughts no matter how irrelevant they are to people who make half the money I make.

Here’s what I believe.  The BCNDP isn’t the movement.  It is the electoral ally of a series of movements that have at their heart ordinary people trying to live whole and fulfilling lives against all odds.  As well it is the electoral arm of a series of movements that have at their heart our planet and the way those ordinary people wish to steward that planet for all.

The BC NDP’s job is not to be everything to everybody.  Its job is not to be “the movement”.  That is so presumptuous and self-important.

The BC NDP’s job is to get a group of people who share the above values elected in enough quantities to form a government and to do something.

In other words the BC NDP’s job is not about politicians and their ability to talk.  It’s about ordinary people and their needs and their priorities and our ability to win elections and deliver policies and programs that make their lives better.

Who cares what the New Democrat politicians say if that can’t get elected and change the things that need changing?  We are useless if we can’t do that.  We don’t deserve people’s votes.  We don’t deserve their donations.  We don’t deserve their time and effort if we aren’t doing our job to win elections that deliver a decent government in line with their values and aspirations.

And if the BC NDP ceases to do that and descends even further down the rabbit hole Corky Evans describes, a new modern party representing ordinary people will emerge to do that so very necessary job.

Posted in Adrian Dix, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics | Tagged | 29 Comments

Vodka isn’t enough

 

I’m confused.  In a little less than 6 months, Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Leading up to those games, Russia has criminalized homosexuality and legalized state and informal terrorism against LGBT citizens.

And all we can think of in return is dumping our Russian vodka before the games begin?

We have seen all this before.

In 1935 the German government of Adolf Hitler re-criminalized homosexual activity:

“As part of a massive rewriting of the criminal code, Nazi jurists revised Paragraph 175. Issued on June 28, 1935, and put into effect on September 1, 1935, the revision emphasized the criminality of both men involved in “indecency.”

“Even before the new law went into effect, Nazi courts expanded the range of so–called indecent acts beyond the single offense prosecuted under the old law. By 1938, German courts ruled that any contact between men deemed to have sexual intent, even “simple looking” or “simple touching,” could be grounds for arrest and conviction.

“New language added as Paragraph 175a specifically imposed up to ten years’ hard labor for “indecency” committed under coercion, with adolescents under the age of 21, and for male prostitution. Individuals victimized by acts punishable under these new provisions could be—and were—prosecuted as criminals according to Paragraph 175.

Paragraph 175 was an important part of the Holocaust – the Nazi criminalization of non-arayan and other people that lead to the organized mass extermination of over 6 million people by the most inhuman and extreme means.

The laws that established the grounds for extermination – like Paragraph 175 – were firmly in place and acted upon as the Nazi dictatorship implemented its plans to host the 1936 Summer Olympics at Nuremburg.

And the 1936 Olympics became a testing ground for world reaction, as documented by the United States Holocaust museum’s collection on Sport and Nazification:

“Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, observers in the United States and other western democracies questioned the morality of supporting Olympic Games hosted by the Nazi regime. Responding to reports of the persecution of Jewish athletes in 1933, Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Committee, stated: “The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race.”

“Brundage, like many others in the Olympics movement, initially considered moving the Games from Germany. After a brief and tightly managed inspection of German sports facilities in 1934, Brundage stated publicly that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should go on, as planned.

“Many American newspaper editors and anti-Nazi groups, led by Jeremiah Mahoney, president of the Amateur Athletic Union, were unwilling to be duped by Nazi Germany’s hollow pledges and lies regarding German Jewish athletes. But Avery Brundage maneuvered the Amateur Athletic Union to a close vote in favor of sending an American team to Berlin, and, in the end, Mahoney’s boycott effort failed.”

Turning back to the Russian Winter Olympics, a boycott seems like a non-starter, for both good and bad reasons.  And like the rest of you, I don’t have any more vodka to pour out.  So what now?

Not only does it look like Russia will get away with staging a Potemkin village games that hides the terror of it’s anti-LGBT laws behind two weeks of winter fun and tourism promotion, it shows the lack of coherent options for protest in the face of the power of the Olympic movement.

But surely there are some answers rolling around in the mass of sponsorships, human rights, media cartels and reportage and state representation?  Surely, there is something effective that can be done to shine a light on this new emerging fascist state?

The goal is obvious: portray the extent of Russian state terrorism against LGBT people and demonstrate that this is the thin edge of the wedge.  And it is not acceptable to democratic people.

That effort failed in 1936.  It shouldn’t be allowed to fail this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Travel, US Politics | 12 Comments

Lame ducks

Vaughn Palmer wrote an all-time keeper of a column last Monday.  Better than anything I’ve ever read, it demonstrates why BC would be far better off if the entire Press Gallery ceased to exist this very second.

Okay, maybe that’s some hyperbole.  But somehow Palmer manages to capture the absolute laziness, ineptitude, complicity and unearned pomposity that characterizes much of what passes for journalism at the Leg in one, almost unbearable, column.

All you budding journalists, itching to get at the truth and expose corruption while defending the weak and questioning the privileged, pin this one over your desk.  It’s the column you don’t want to read 40 years on after a bit of a bender, full of regrets and wondering what you might be if you had just stayed true.

The column purports to be about “ethnicgate” and functions as an all-encompassing apologia for the media’s coverage of the story.

Fittingly, Palmer’s first mention of “ethnicgate” is 15 paragraphs in and to prove his bona fides in pursuing the story he has to go back to a column headline from March 15th column that linked the Premier to the story.  Ha! Did my job!

Generously, buried in the back half of his column, Palmer does admit that questions remain, including questions raised by the NDP in the Legislature last week.

Why, Palmer suggests he may even raise some of those questions himself… maybe… perhaps… oh, probably not.  But like the tree falling in the woods, if Palmer raises them they will become real.

“The file is not closed on the ethnic outreach scandal,” Palmer declares towards the end of the piece.  But he leaves little doubt about the direction the story is heading in his mind. “The scandal,” he recounts, “dominated the headlines for a time but did not prove to be the breaker of political careers in an election that was decided on other matters.”

So, maybe take that back about the tree.  Palmer’s clearly not ready to make the yea or nay call, which is his role in the Gallery.

But who cares about his role in the gallery?  The real question is what’s Palmer’s (and the gallery’s) job as BC’s most powerful political columnist?

I think the answer is simple:  Get the questions on the table and answered by the government.

And what questions they are.  The Opposition came up with an email the Dyble investigation sat on, that appears to recommend offering a bribe as a way of keeping damaging information from harming the Premier.

Subsequently, the person who was the subject of the offer has confirmed that some kind of offer was made.

In other words there is an allegation of a criminal offence.  It appears to be well founded.  The head of the civil service sat on the allegation.  The allegation doesn’t appear to have been investigated.  The offence covers-up some other allegations that appear to go directly to the Premier.

“The file is not closed”?  No shit.

Isn’t it the job of the press gallery to get to the bottom of things and start asking and answering the questions?  If this isn’t what they are supposed to be doing, what is their job? Aiding and abetting corruption?  Because that seems to be what they are doing here.

Turnout in the last election was just over 50%.  Young people in particular didn’t bother voting.  The connection between government and what happens to them is disappearing.  A vote has less and less efficacy and meaning as government and the press increasingly turns to the service of the powerful.

Everything is corrupt and there’s nothing that can be done about that.  That’s the takeaway and it seems to be the dominant mood in Canada.  There’s good reason for that and the media plays a big part, probably bigger than politicians.  (It’s also my belief that the BCNDP contributed mightily to that with a pathetic campaign that refused to raise these issues).

Unfortunately on the basis of Monday’s column I have a very strong feeling that that state of affairs is just fine with Palmer and most of BC’s limp press gallery.

Posted in Adrian Dix, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Christy Clark | Tagged , | 22 Comments

Old records

Yesterday, sitting in the park watching the Mole Hill bocci players, my son asked me “what’s gonna be on your list?

We were talking about seeing the new doc “20 Feet From Stardom” that tells the story of the background singer.  The movie features Mary Clayton singing the “shot away” line that completely makes Gimme Shelter.

That song’s on my list.

“The List” Shamus was referring to is kind of my personal set list, the list of songs that come closest to telling my story or at least my inner story, the one I want to believe, the one I think I see if even nobody else does.

Shamus said, ‘of course we gotta play Sympathy For the Devil’, and I’m still wondering what the heck that’s about.  I mean it wasn’t that bad was it?

The truth is I take that as a serious compliment.  Sympathy is one complicated song and therefore true to life.

I was always a Stones over the Beatles kind of person.  I believe in complicated and my record is the very complicated side four of Exile.

The song?  What’s to choose?  Soul Survivor I suppose because, as should be the case at the end of great piece of music, you feel a little wiser if a little more exhausted.

The next song is easy.  My eldest, wise child that she is, has anticipated my forgetfulness and has had the lyrics tattooed on the back of her neck.

Now, I’ll have to ask the youngest if she’s added any tattoos lately.

Posted in BC Politics | 9 Comments

Newspapers dying? Fist bumps all ’round

The Province pitches the new Maserati equally, to all.

Yesterday Sun Media announced it was closing 11 “papers” and laying off 360 staff across the country.  Unfortunately this doesn’t include 24Hrs here in Vancouver.  The announcement comes on the heels of a 60% reduction, year over year, in owner Quebecor’s first quarter profit.

Similarly, Torstar, the publisher of Metro and the Toronto Star reported a 70% drop in profits.

Six weeks ago, Postmedia – owners of the Sun and Province – led the bad news cycle with a dismal first quarter report showing their pay-wall strategy is a failure while print advertisers continue to flee Postmedia’s papers.

All these media conglomerates responded with cutback strategies, strategies that show no sign of working.  Meanwhile media commentators continue their hand-ringing, seeing no end to Canada’s newspaper crisis, while bemoaning the loss of our ‘national voice’.

So am I the only one with a smile on my face?

I think the rapid collapse of English Canada’s newspaper industry is one of the most important opportunities for progressives in years.

Here’s a question for anyone in the four bottom income quintiles: Since when do any of these ‘important public institutions’ actually represent your lives?

Today’s Globe advises us on the “best” way to grill lobster and scallops.  It makes a pleasant read while we think about the article on Canaccord’s gold stock advice.

Over at the Vancouver Sun we get the government’s apologia for a bribe in the ethnicgate scandal.  Global News has already made a mockery out of that story.

Then there are the pics of unaffordable real estate and also – surprise! – a recipe for lobster Cobb salad.  What the hell is it with lobster anyway?  Is the 4,000 mile, $4,000 diet the newest thing and how did I miss it?

I have a different view of the death of Canada’s newspaper industry.  I see it as the death of one of the ways Canada’s elite communicates with itself and sets the political, social and economic agenda for the rest of us.

That there is a death knell sounding can only be a good thing for those who have suffered from the agenda that Canada’s newspapers have pushed on behalf of the economic elites since Brian Mulroney – free trade, deregulation, deunionization, privatization, and on and on.

Taking advantage of the opportunity should be a priority for Canada’s progressives.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean buying a paper, or reproducing a version of a closed paper on-line.  Or a limited interest newsmagazine:  The Tyee isn’t the model.

And despite my friends losing their jobs, it’s also not about saving industry jobs.

It’s about understanding how ordinary people communicate today and coming up with a progressive model that works for them and generates a common understanding of the social and economic future they face.

Before the other side figures it out.  Because they will.

Posted in BC Politics | 20 Comments

Pain

mriA few nights ago I got up to have a bowel movement, a thing of great emotion these days; joy when it all goes well; deep, deep despair when all that my colon brings to the table is a series of mediocre farts.

This night was different.  It was late, after midnight and I was in a hurry to get to bed and crack open my latest sociological study of German acquiescence to Nazi rule – it’s what I read so sue me.  On a recent trip to Berlin I was beyond proud to walk Hannah Arendt Strasse.

I sat.  I squeezed.  It worked.

Then a moment later I was thrown against the wall by my own private tsunami of pain.  Wave after wave of intense terrifying pain, each wave of greater strength than the previous so by the end I wasn’t just moaning I was crying, for relief and out of fear that I wouldn’t get any.

And I didn’t.  We followed night nurse instructions: extra methadone, two tabs of oxycodone, gabapentin, a wash of cannabis oil, more oxy, more gaba, another drop of oil until I was just as worried about overdosing as I was of the pain.

And the pain kept on coming, wave upon wave.

It was indescribably terrible.

Later lying in bed, too tired to sleep, I tried to think what else could possibly feel this bad or even worse.  A beating with a bundle of rebar?  Lying trapped in a car after a horrific accident, the kind where you wonder “how could anyone survive that?”

Really, it was all a fake game.  I will never feel more pain than I did until I do.

And this game hides another falsehood.  I’m not really afraid of more pain.  I’ve made it through everything that’s been thrown at me; huge operations, surprise trips to the ICU, hospital born infections; near death experiences…

It’s a long list I’ve accumulated in the eleven years since my chordoma diagnosis and the truth is I’m secretly proud that I’ve dealt with every damned thing thrown at me.

IMG_0001After the pain settled down Thursday, I was admitted to the Cancer Clinic for a weekend stay. As I write I’m looking at the wonderful view of the northeastern mountains from room 532 while my docs figure out how to manage the pain, when and if it returns.

They also want to determine what is likely to come next.  As the pain settled down the use of my left arm and leg went with it.  The pain turned out to be a symptom of my spinal tumour destroying the nerves that work the arm and leg on my left side.

That’s my real fear; first the left…

then the right…

and finally the core.

This is likely the beginning of the end.

Posted in BC Politics | Tagged , , , | 52 Comments

Just like starting over

It’s been a while since the last post. I’ll get to the reasons for that shortly, but I first want to say thanks, an enormous thanks, for the response to that last piece.  It had over 12,000 views, which I’m told is a good number for a blog post.

It’s a good number for other reasons, not the least of which is the interest it shows in the future of BC’s traditional centre left party.

If comments are any judge, the BCNDP faces a tough few years as it gets back on track.  Aside from the rotten campaign, which few seem interested in defending, the party itself seems tired and defeated with few good ideas and an antiquated understanding of the way to get them across to ordinary citizens.

But more than that, like the left in general, the BCNDP seems unable to grasp the implications of the important and rapid social and economic changes that have taken place in the last two or three decades.

For example economic agreements – starting but not ending with ‘free trade’ -eliminated the possibility of low skilled living wage jobs at the same time as new work practices and organization mitigated against union organizing.

The result of these and other changes in BC with its trade dependent economy is a very real decline in the middle class, growing poverty and a small and growing pocket of extreme wealth.

This kind of transformation was inevitably greeted within the NDP with calls to block trade agreements (TILMA anyone) and increase union protection, policies that are stop gap at best and counter-productive at their worst as employers counter with capital strikes and other wait ‘em out strategies.

Those agreements and work arrangements aren’t going anywhere fast.  The same is true of hundreds of other social and economic changes that challenge the goal of a better life for all, not just the few.

Tilting at windmills too often seems to be our slogan.  No issue is too small, no windmill too quaint for the BC NDP to attack.  A BC NDP platform is generally easy to identify.  It’s thick, it’s unreadable and, taken as a whole, it’s of little interest to the majority of voters.

***

I wrote the last post because I believed that despite everything that’s wrong with the BCNDP my province desperately needed a change of government and desperately needed an NDP government that would pay attention to the plight of the middle class, would seek to at least slow growing inequality and would start to deal with our dependence on a carbon culture.

That is not to be because of the sheer incompetence of the BC NDP campaign.  That they could blow such an insurmountable lead still seems surreal to me.  And it still makes my blood boil.

Out of government it will be harder to change the BCNDP into a winning machine.  But that or building a new better machine is what must happen.

The right is feeling its oats right now.  But a quick look shows a lot of problems.  Campaign promises are unlikely to be kept.  They have cut way past the bone and now they are cutting again, when they promised prosperity.

Their leader is still a wingnut with a healthy dose of corruption and incompetence following her everywhere she goes.

More importantly, the emptiness of their campaign made the NDP look policy mad.  If the NDP tilted at windmills, the BC Liberals ran a Potemkin campaign, slapping up the rosy billboards to cover up a host of problems they themselves created.  That they got away with it is enough of a reason for the NDP leadership to go.

Just like 2009 it won’t take long for the threadbare policies of the winners to show.  The middle class will continue to shrink, inequality will rise and the environment will continue to sicken.  In short most British Columbians will be worse off.

BC’s elite forget that fewer than 20 per cent of the voting population put this government in power.  On Election Day the right was returned but not joyfully.  A smart opposition ready to prosecute its case and offer an alternative that puts the average person first will be in a position to beat this, pretty mediocre, government.

They just have to be in a position to run a decent campaign.

 ***

Can they do it?  That’s something I hope to look at this summer and just this summer, because the sad fact is that I won’t get to play in this sandbox.

As my cancer grows I will post less and less.  Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been in and out of the cancer clinic, getting tests and treating symptoms.  The cancer is past beating.

This blog will pretty much stay the same to the end: politics, maybe a little music, a little social commentary; also some pictures and videos.  The big change is I’m going to talk a bit about living with and dying from cancer.

I doubt I have anything new to offer, but it’s hard for me to avoid right now.  I just hope I don’t bore you to death.

Posted in Adrian Dix, BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Christy Clark | 30 Comments

Change for the Better, One Big Step Now

It’s the NDP that needs change for the better

This weekend the BC NDP Provincial Council meets to begin the review of the disastrous 2013 campaign.

From what I see it is set to fail, much like Dix’s campaign itself.

This was a campaign that Adrian Dix and the BC NDP were supposed to win going away.  Instead they lost badly.

Dix didn’t lose because Clark’s Liberals were good (they were) but because his campaign was so bad.

Under his leadership the BC NDP were ill prepared, incompetent in the air and on the ground, deliberately under informed, unable to respond and technologically in the dark ages.

Money wasn’t the problem it has always been.  Dix and his team spent more money getting fewer votes than any NDP campaign in history.  They spent more than 3 times what the 2009 campaign spent to get a significantly smaller portion of the vote.

The campaign was an enormous waste of money.  Think about that the next time you get one of those relentless phone calls or e-mails.

The problem according to MLAs and members of the campaign team was Dix – his foolishly amateur ‘positive’ strategy, his performance, his astonishing micro-management coupled with his inability to work with a team, including his caucus and his candidates.

There are, I’m told, at least two reports on the campaign written by senior insiders, one of which was prepared for a debrief held last week.   One report is said to be a damning review of the Leader’s lack of campaign skills.  (Will council get to see those reports before it decides how to review the campaign?  What do you think?)

Yet Dix refuses to take responsibility, offering no indication that he intends to leave.  It appears that he has decided to stick around to stay in charge of the official campaign review.

In other words, the problem has decided to oversee the solution.  If that doesn’t undermine the party’s credibility it’s only because it has nowhere further to fall.

 ***

With Dix in charge it begs the question:  why bother holding a review? It all seems set up to defuse blame and save Dix’s leadership.  Why trust it will get at the real problem and convince Dix to go?

Here’s what people close to the campaign have to say about it.

No campaign decision was too small for the leader to interfere.  Conversely no campaign decision was too big for the leader to do anything but go it alone if he wanted.  See Kinder Morgan.  Dix didn’t just blindside voters, he blindsided his own campaign team and MLAs.

The one thing Dix refused to take any part in was improving his own performance.  The watchword was ‘authentic’ as in ‘a bad suit is authentic’.  Dix was allergic to training and improving his own performance.  As a result, the more voters saw of him the less they saw him as as a Premier-in-waiting.

‘Authenticity’ led Dix to throw away the decent line he was given to deal with the memo and come up with his own, the infamous “I was thirty-five”, giving the Liberals one of their best ads of the campaign.  Christy probably sent him a thank-you note.

As somebody who would know told me, the story of the campaign is that “the bus managed the anchor, breaking rule number one.  Dix made all the decisions.  Topp’s big mistake was not resigning.”

But Topp didn’t resign.  Instead he went on to direct and implement the disastrous polling, advertising, tour, targeting and GOTV campaign.  Not one key element of the campaign worked.

Several people pointed out to me that mistakes piled upon mistakes right to the bitter end.  The final tour blitz took enormous effort and resources at a key point in the campaign.  Of all the ridings visited in the whirlwind final day we only won one.  It’s likely that the tour took resources away from some who should have been pulling vote rather than marshalling an event for the leader.

***

Reviewing all of the above with Dix still in the leadership seems to me impossible.  The party needs a change in leadership – an interim leader for example – before undertaking the renewal it so desperately needs.

Failing that several things must happen for the review to have even a smattering of credibility.

It must be seen to be independent:  panel members must come with their own expertise and have no ties to the powers that be.

How about someone like Michael Balagus, former Manitoba Chief of Staff and Campaign Director? Dix complained about Balagus’ presentation at our last convention because Balagus’ strategy of defining the opposition wasn’t in line with Dix’s strategy of letting Christy off the hook.  But Balagus was correct.  Shouldn’t we ask people who have a record of getting it right to help review our mistakes?

Last BC election our pollster Leslie Turnbull – conflict disclosed, a close friend of mine – called 84 of 85 constituencies correctly.  This time, Dix kept her company out of the campaign. Our polling turned out to be wildly inaccurate.  Turnbull would be a good person to help the party understand why our polling was a useless mess.

(I’m told the campaign pollster was fired part way through after telling Dix the polling didn’t support his pipeline strategy.  Firing people for telling you the truth is a very bad sign in a campaign.  On top of this, there was no targeted riding polling done in the campaign.  At the end they had no clue which constituencies were in play and where they should assign resources.)

I acknowledge I have a serious conflict in the area of party advertising, but it seems to me even crazier now that the makers of ‘Christy Crunch’, who have a record of winning provincial elections across Canada, were discarded by Brian Topp in favour of the makers of those insipid and useless commercials the campaign spent millions on.

And why was there no money for a decent last week media buy?  And why was our buy so weak on programming that women watch?

Someone with advertising expertise needs to evaluate how and why those terrible decisions were made.  After all, we wasted millions on ads that had voters shrugging their shoulders and changing the channel while the Liberals killed us with the weather vane spot.

The review needs independent members who will ask the right questions.  And there are a lot more of those questions.  For example:

  • Where did all the money go?
  • What was the social media strategy?  How much money was spent on social media for what return?
  • What was the polling strategy and why did our pollsters fail so badly?
  • What was the advertising strategy? Were the ads tested?
  • Were our opponent’s message, arguments and ads tested? If not, why not?
  • Why were central data banks separate from local ones causing enormous duplication?
  • Why couldn’t we pull the vote we identified?
  • Why did the central campaign disregard local intel that said the leader was a problem on the phone and doorstep? I understand this was communicated often in the last half of the campaign.
  • Why was the campaign absent in ethnic communities and media?
  • What targeting was done and why did it fail?
  • Why the hell wasn’t the campaign relevant to women – our key demographic?
  • Why did we know so little about our audience?  Did we even bother to understand who our persuadable voters were and design a campaign to reach them?
  • Was the platform tested? Who developed the release strategy and why?  Critics and others complain that the platform contained good retail politics that was lost in the release and debate over cost?
  • Is it true the Leader was rewriting the platform right up to its release?
  • Was the campaign strategy tested with our targets?
  • Was there even an Election Planning Committee.  If so did it ever meet during the campaign?

There are dozens of questions about all aspects of the campaign.  The review should answer all of them, ruthlessly.

Provincial council and the party should have access to key information like the Campaign plan, budgets, media plans, outreach and targeting etc…

And they should have access to the existing debriefs from campaign staff.

***

I could go on and on about this awful campaign, but it seems clear to me that if Dix refuses to take responsibility in any concrete way Provincial Council has a duty to step up to the plate and ensure the review team has the expertise and independence to provide the party with a meaningful review, no matter how bad it is for the leader.

What I really mean to say is someone should tell Dix to go so the party can get on with the enormous job of rebuilding.  Failing that party members and council should grab control of the review so it is not a whitewash.

***

With this election the BC NDP really has hit its “COPE” moment – that place where good people have to decide to stay or go, to help modernize or leave and let it ossify into irrelevance.  It’s time to change or die.

Posted in Adrian Dix, BC NDP, BC Politics | 95 Comments

You’re kidding me?

I’m reading this correctly, aren’t I?  This is a joke?  A big f****** ironic poke in the members’ eye joke, kind of a Louis CK way of apologizing for the pitiful way “the Team” ran the election, right?

Here’s the subject line on the e-mail I received yesterday:  ”Should we just let Christy Clark win?”

And then it proceeds …

“Ian

“I don’t think so, but to send her a message I need your help.

“We spent every cent we could raise to try to win the recent election.  We didn’t win, but we did beat Christy Clark in her own constituency of Vancouver-Point Grey.

“Now we have a democratic duty to provide a choice to the voters of Westside-Kelowna in the coming by-election where she is running.

“But, this won’t be easy.  Christy Clark wants to get a seat so she can be Premier.

“We need this by-election campaign to provide voters with the truth about Christy Clark’s record and the details of her fact-free campaign.

“We need to send a strong message that we will be holding her to account on her promises about balancing the budget and protecting health care and education.

“It is up to you Ian – do you want to send Christy Clark a message she can’t ignore?

“There is a still an opportunity for you to do just that.

This by-election campaign will be hard, but it is only possible at all with your donation of $125 today.

“Thank you for your perseverance,

“Sincerely,

“Jan O’Brien
“Provincial Secretary

PS I love that line, “thank you for your perseverance,”.  I can see the writing process… thank you for your stupidity…. No, that’s too straightforward… Your gullibility… Closer, but still too obvious.  How about perserverence.  It kind of says it without flagging what we really think about our members.

In a funny way it reminds me of what I think the medieval Popes would have said to the flagellants:  ’Whoa, don’t know why you keep on doing what you’re doing but it kind of works for us, you crazy believers, you.

 

 

Posted in Adrian Dix, BC NDP, BC Politics | 46 Comments