In all seriousness, the provincial NDP’s interactive strategy for their leadership convention was very well conceived and executed. The coverage featured live video streaming, live blogs, and a Twitter feed that become one of the most active on all of Twitter during the leadership vote on Saturday evening. All this turned out to be essential due to the abysmal news coverage the convention itself received. (Like that Joe Trippi guy talks about: don’t get media, become the media.) From what I can tell, democratic wunderkind Dave Meslin was the driving force behind the whole thing, and both he and the party are to be commended.
Another positive indicator along the same vein is that Andrea Horwath, the new leader of the provincial NDP, had a very good (and probably the best) leadership campaign website. We can reasonably expect, therefore, that the NDP will have a strong interactive presence in the next general election.
This praise comes with two caveats from me. One is that the importance of a strong interactive strategy for Canadian political parties is, IMHO, currently overstated by many. (I am reminded of my favourite political quote of the year so far. While discussing ways to reach young voters, then-Republican chairman Mike Duncan said “We have to do it in the Facebook with the Twittering.” Priceless.)Â The second is that while I sincerely wish Horwath the best of luck, I’m not convinced she was the best choice (I’m a Peter Tabuns fan), or that she has the right combination of ideas and rhetoric to move her party forward. More on both of those points later.
Torontoist invited me to contribute to this yearâ€™s Heroes and Villains. Yesterday I shared my hero pick. Now here’s my villains submission.
Last year, Torontoist readers voted Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty, et al.the number one villain of the year. Since then, their governance has gotten even worse. Even if you sympathize with the Harper government’s policy objectives, it’s hard to support the way they’ve gone about accomplishing them. Despite expressing respect for the will of Parliament while in opposition, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have done everything they can to obstruct Parliament from functioning properly in a minority situation, to the point of breaking their own fixed election date law for pure political advantage. In other words, this government has given the opposition parties no shortage of fodder.
And yet that opposition has failed, repeatedly and consistently, to offer an alternative that catches the imagination of voters. The Liberal Party, for example, was specifically mocked for their reluctance to vote against the government (perhaps most memorably in a flashy Rick Mercer musical number). In the election that ultimately took place anyway the Liberals received their worst result in recent memory, while the New Democratic and Green parties also failed to make any significant inroads.
This failure is mostly due to communication and political problems rather than policy ones. It’s not that the opposition parties haven’t had any good ideasâ€”they haveâ€”but rather that they’ve been completely unsuccessful in communicating those ideas in a compelling way. This impotence was epitomized by the year-end coalition debacle, where the opposition leadership allowed perfectly legitimate and potentially exciting democratic cooperation to be successfully characterized by the prime minister as some kind of separatist coup.
As a result, the highly objectionable government of Stephen Harper has been allowed to continue to exist essentially without opposition. To be clear, only the Conservative government is responsible for their actions, but that doesn’t mean the opposition parties can be left off the hook for their failure to perform. No matter what party or ideology is in government, our democratic system relies on an effective opposition to function properly. Here’s hoping for better in 2009.
I have acquired a huge backlog of things to write about, which ironically is more paralyzing than enabling. All sorts of drafts and re-writes are rolling around in my head, and I hope to have this blog up and running again with semi-regular posts in short order. Thank you for your patience.
In the mean time, I leave you with this quick prediction. With so much environmental, economic, and political uncertainty in the world right now, it’s hard to know where anything is headed. I can, however, confidently foresee the following. Having now endorsed not just one, but two Liberal leaders as prime minister, Jack Layton will oppose his own inclusion in the next televised leaders’ debate. You heard it here first.