For years, Ed Broadbent fought his battles on the front lines of Canadian politics as leader of the federal NDP.
These days, he’s taking his fight to a different plain — to the battle of ideas, of influence and of political relevance.
He is chair of a think-tank — the Broadbent Institute — that champions “progressive change,” trains activists and confronts some of the long-term issues political parties ignore.
He’s intent on countering the influence of Canadian think-tanks such as the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, established in 2005 by former Reform leader Preston Manning.
“Mr. Manning, from his point of view and from the conservative point of view, has done very well,” Broadbent said in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen.
“They have had an impact on the public debate. And it’s time we did some catch-up, frankly.
“Mr. Manning’s institute does it on the right and we want to do it on the left in Canada.”
Call it the battle of think-tanks. Left versus right. Broadbent versus Manning. Progressive versus conservative.
The two organizations have now become parallel incubators for ideas in Canadian politics, unrestrained by the formal partisan ties that can stifle debate among true believers within parties. Moreover, unlike most traditional think-tanks, both organizations offer training on how to achieve political change — all the way from community groups or city hall to provincial and federal politics.
This weekend in Ottawa, the Broadbent Institute, founded in 2011, will hold its first annual “progress summit.” About 600 people are expected to attend.
The conference will feature topics such as: income inequality; the federal government’s “attack” on the labour movement; the rights of indigenous peoples on natural resource development; and how businesses can build a “green economy.”
The institute believes in the merits of learning from “progressives” elsewhere in the world. Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard will headline a list of speakers that includes a French politician describing the “rise of the right” in Europe, and a human rights “marketing director” based in Washington, D.C.
There will be a session on how to use Google and social media in campaigns, and on “lessons from winning progressive campaigns in the U.S. and Canada.”
The event is virtually a mirror image — with different policy leanings — of the annual Manning Centre conference, the most recent of which was in Ottawa in early March.
Chuck Strahl, a former Conservative MP who chairs the Manning Centre, said the country is well-served by having parallel think-tanks because political parties are more focused on winning elections.
“The parties themselves are forced, if you will, to focus on what they do best and that leaves it open for other organizations like the Manning Centre and the Broadbent Institute to delve into some of the big issues. We don’t have to get elected to anything.”
Strahl said he welcomes the emergence of the Broadbent Institute.
“It’s not really a competitor; it’s a competitor for ideas. We’re not tilling the same soil here. We’re looking for people on the conservative end of the spectrum, but we both have the same sort of objective: to engage them in civil society.”
Broadbent said his institute faces a big challenge getting its message out because many of the country’s prominent think-tanks, such as the Fraser Institute and the C.D. Howe Institute, are predominantly conservative.
Broadbent’s institute is not a registered charity, nor does it plan to become one. It funds its operations through donations — often $5 or $20 from thousands of donors, says executive director Rick Smith — and will have a budget of over $1 million in the next year
There is a strong NDP tinge to the group; some key players have held prominent jobs in the party.
But the institute proclaims it is an “independent” and “non-partisan.” It has the support of Allan Gregg, once the Progressive Conservative party’s chief pollster, and John Laschinger, formerly campaign manager for many federal and provincial Progressive Conservatives.
Indeed, Smith said the institute appeals to a broad range of Canadians.
“On any given day, the vast majority of Canadians are untethered from any particular party affiliation. They’re open to good ideas and they’re looking for a good debate about the issues of the day. That’s is the kind of audience we’re trying to cater to and reach.”
Posted by NationBuilder Support · March 25, 2014 5:34 AM
Fellows to share expertise and experiences with budding leaders
OTTAWA—The Broadbent Institute today announced its first Leadership Fellows -- a talented and diverse group of 18 leaders from across Canada who will share their expertise and experiences with the next generation of Canadian leaders.
“Together, the Leadership Fellows will strengthen the Institute’s ability to support the growth of the progressive movement in Canada,” said Graham Mitchell, the Broadbent Institute’s Director of Training and Leadership.
The inaugural group of Leadership Fellows, part of the expansion of the Institute’s Training and Leadership Program, are:
Tzeporah Berman, strategic advisor for environmental organizations
Tsering Dolma, Community Outreach Coordinator of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
Lois Corbett, environmental consultant
Judy Duncan, head organizer and Executive Director of ACORN Canada
Sara Ehrhardt, policy expert and public campaigner
Bob Gallagher, head of communications and political action for the United Steelworkers, LGBTQ activist
Raymond Guardia, campaign manager and current Deputy Chief of Staff for Projet Montréal
Jennifer Hollett, award-winning broadcast journalist and digital expert
John Laschinger, veteran campaign manager and author
Brad Lavigne, consultant, media commentator, author and former campaign manager
Allan Gregg, leading research professional and social commentator
Trevor McKenzie-Smith, campaigner and electoral geographer
Gillian McEachern, environmental campaigner
Kevin Millsip, co-founder and director of Next Up
Tracey Mitchell, community-based facilitator, writer and activist
Jason Mogus, digital strategist and campaigner
Bob Penner, pollster and leading research professional
Robin Sears, consultant, media commentator and former campaign manager
"They have experience as campaign managers, strategists, tacticians, communicators, innovators, pollsters, public servants, and much more," added Mitchell. "Their work on a variety of issues has made this country a better place, so we’re excited about sharing their expertise with a new generation of campaigners.”
The Broadbent Institute's first Leadership Fellows are also joined by five new Policy Fellows, who join an already impressive roster of leading academics and policy experts that help inform the Institute’s research and policy agenda.
From March 28-30 in Ottawa, the Broadbent Institute is holding its first annual Progress Summit. Learn more at www.broadbentinstitute.ca/en/summit. The Institute is also holding a pre-summit Training and Leadership session in Ottawa with Mitch Stewart, founding partner of 270 Strategies and Battleground States Director for the Obama for America campaign in the 2012 presidential general election.
For more information, please contact:
Mike Fancie, Broadbent Institute
mfancie[at] broadbentinstitute [dot] ca or 613-866-3606
Posted by Graham Mitchell · March 24, 2014 8:00 PM
The Broadbent Institute champions progressive change. Whether it’s our eagle-eyed (and sharp-tongued) colleagues at PressProgress publishing hard-hitting news and analysis, or our Policy Fellows producing creative and practical policy ideas, we lend our efforts every day to advance progressive issues.