At one point last Saturday afternoon in the main ballroom of the Delta hotel in downtown Ottawa, epicentre for the Broadbent Institute’s first annual Progress Summit, Alex Himelfarb, a former clerk of the privy council and now co-editor of a book entitled Tax Is Not a Four-Letter Word, recalled being at a dinner party and wondering aloud about “how nice” it would be to have universal daycare in this country.
The importance of the recent sea change in American public opinion on marriage equality is likely lost on many Canadians.
Canada has been on the cutting edge of marriage equality and a leader in protecting the fundamental rights of the LGBT community. Now 10 years since marriage equality was legalized here, the tide is turning in America.
What a fantastic energizing weekend it has been. Many important conversations. New friends. Lots of great ideas to act on.
Let me thank our speakers, our staff, our volunteers, and all of you for your active engagement. Je veux remercier l’équipe extrêmement dévoué de l’Institut Broadbent. Il m’est un grand honneur de travailler à vos côtés.
Posted by NationBuilder Support · March 30, 2014 9:27 AM
OTTAWA—The inaugural Progress Summit came to a close today with over 600 participants and more than 10,000 tweets. Over the course of this weekend, progressives from across Canada came together in Ottawa to learn from leading progressive policy experts and organizers.
Left and right-wing politicians have traditionally clashed over economic, social and environmental policy.
Now Ed Broadbent is adding democracy to the list of issues that differentiate so-called progressives from conservatives — at least in Canada.
The former NDP leader says the Harper government's proposed overhaul of national election laws has turned what used to be a shared value among all federal parties into another ideological battlefield.
"Whereas 10 years ago progressives had little or no need to defend our basic democratic values and institutions, today it is essential," Broadbent says in a speech prepared for the inaugural summit of the progressive think-tank founded in his name.
"The mis-named Fair Elections Act is nothing more than U.S. Republican-style voter suppression."
The speech is to be delivered Saturday morning to welcome participants at the Broadbent Institute's sold-out "progress summit."
Text of the speech was made available to The Canadian Press on Friday.
During his 24 years in Parliament, Broadbent says no prime minister ever attempted to rig election laws and undermine voter participation in the way he accused the Harper government of currently trying to do.
"Before Stephen Harper, changes in electoral institutions — the rules of the game — were always made on the basis of an all-party consensus ... He has acted unilaterally and undemocratically."
Broadbent, who worked in developing countries around the world as head of a non-partisan democratic and human rights advocacy group created by Parliament in the 1990s, says Canada used to be seen "as a model democracy."
"Now, as the prime minister promotes democracy in Ukraine, we have 19 serious scholars from half a dozen countries publicly denouncing him for repressing democracy at home."
Experts on democracy and elections, both at home and abroad, have been scathing in their criticism of the proposed overhaul of election laws. They fear it will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, muzzle the chief electoral officer and give a big advantage to the political party with the most money and biggest database — which happens to be Harper's Conservative party.
It would boost, both directly and indirectly, the amount of money parties can spend during campaigns. It would end the practice of vouching for voters without adequate identification. And it would forbid the elections watchdog from communicating with the public about anything other than mechanics of how, where and when to vote.
Thus far, the government has been undeterred by any of the criticism.
In addition to their fight to defend and strengthen Elections Canada, Broadbent says progressives are characterized by their belief that "prosperity needs to be broadly shared," that the gap between the very rich and everyone else must be closed.
They are also characterized by their belief that economic growth must go hand in hand with environmental sustainability.
"Progressives, indeed most Canadians, understand that environmental and economic priorities need to be reconciled and made mutually reinforcing," Broadbent says.
"And at some basic level the federal government has rejected this ever since Mr. Harper came to power eight years ago."
Posted by NationBuilder Support · March 30, 2014 5:09 AM
OTTAWA—The Broadbent Institute’s Progress Summit continues Sunday with a focus on a path forward for a progressive Canada.
Panels on the concluding day of the Summit include developing winning campaigns and providing policy solutions to income inequality and good jobs in a green economy.
Anastasia Khoo, Marketing Director of the Washington, DC-based Human Rights Campaign, will cap off the Summit with a keynote address about online engagement. Khoo was behind the groundbreaking online campaign to spread the now iconic red and pink marriage equality profile photo on behalf of the largest civil rights organization in the United States. That campaign is considered to be Facebook’s most viral ever.
The summit will wrap up with closing remarks by Broadbent Institute Executive Director, Rick Smith, about seizing new momentum for the Canadian progressive movement.
The federal government sees the public isn’t interested or engaged in its controversial elections overhaul bill and is using that to “demotivate and demoralize” political opponents, says Jamie Biggar, executive director of Leadnow.
Asked what could be done to mobilize the public against Bill C-23, Mr. Biggar suggested that Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, Ont.) recently “lied” when he said that only academics and journalists, but not the general public, oppose the legislation.
When the founding leader of the Reform party, Preston Manning, retired from politics to start an Institute bearing his name, folks around him said the Manning Institute would not be a 'think tank' but a 'do tank.'
The Institute that bears the name of one-time NDP leader Ed Broadbent has similar 'do tank' ambitions and they were on display this past weekend.
From Friday to Sunday, the Broadbent Institute held what was, in effect, its inaugural major event, the Progress Summit, in Ottawa.
The Summit brought together Canadian progressives -- or, at least, people the Broadbent organizers consider to be progressive -- with activists and politicians from the United States, Australia, Great Britain and France.
There was significant discussion of policy, including indigenous rights, the green economy, youth employment, income inequality and the future of manufacturing.
But there was also a strong focus on strategy and tactics.
The Broadbent Institute, like its counterpart on the Right, is all about linking theory with practice, ideas with action. And so, there were workshops and panels on everything from Google campaigns to options for a beleaguered labour movement to "lessons from winning progressive campaigns in the U.S. and Canada.”
That last panel paired British Columbia environmental campaigner Tzeporah Berman and one time NDP Quebec organizer Ray Guardia with two Americans: Erik Peterson, of the strategy and training institute named after the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, and Ashley Pinedo, who worked at the grassroots level on the 2012 Obama campaign in the key swing state of Florida (which Obama carried, as he had in 2008).
Peterson talked about something he called the Wellstone triangle (the grassroots, electoral politics and public policy).
Guardia and Pinedo told generally upbeat stories about the winning campaigns in which they had been involved.
Berman, however, struck a more sombre note. She said pointedly that the Right is beating "us" in the tactics department.
"We have been too focused on the air war, on a core team that sends out messages, and not sufficiently focused on the ground war, working at the people-to-people and community level," she said.
The B.C. environmentalist advocated for smart and data-driven strategy.
"We should stop trying to talk to everyone," she said, and use good data to focus on those groups who can be convinced.
"The Right is good at message control." Berman sighed, "They know how to create an echo-chamber. We progressives are too invested in our own intellect. We become bored too quickly and move on to another topic."
On this point, Berman seemed to be speaking from a wealth of bitter experience.
"Winning campaigns is not a function of policy, it is about motivation," she noted, and then added that progressives are good at critiquing but "suck at proposing alternatives."
On Sunday evening, a half day after the Summit, one of those too-many-to-remember CBC-TV panels, this one call "Three to Watch," had a brief chat that brought Berman's comment to mind.
The three young up-and-comers and CBC Sunday night news host Wendy Mesley were discussing the still fairly feeble public opposition to what the three seemed to agree is frightful legislation -- the Harper government's Fair Elections Act.
One panelist almost echoed Berman's view when he observed that opponents of Fair Elections have not yet crafted effective messages.
They have not yet figured out how to motivate ordinary folks, he said, and that includes folks who might actually consider voting Conservative.
If the opponents of the Fair Elections Act want to have an impact, and maybe force major changes to the bill, they will have to campaign in a smarter and more effective way.
That, at least, is how this panel sees it.
It is also probably pretty close to what Tzeporah Berman would advise.
Progressives who gathered in Ottawa this weekend will not hesitate to say they’re on the right side of history on so many things – the environment, labour rights, gender equality. Some may not admit this as easily, but they’re also getting tired of, as they say, just being right all the time. They want to win.
That’s no secret, though — the first annual Progress Summit, put on by the left-leaning Broadbent Institute, was peppered with panel sessions and speeches about leading effective campaigns, with advice for organizers in how to build and improve a movement.
While the summit was open to everyone, and all political stripes were in attendance — Tories, Liberals and Greens included – the obvious subtext was an orange flag-waving one.
Tzeporah Berman, a Broadbent fellow and environmental campaigner, noted in one of the panel sessions Sunday that the left, in all its earnestness, wants to explain things — priorities and policies and ideas — with a lot of intellectual rigor.
But good campaigns have always been about simplifying a message and sticking to it. We have to stop assuming facts will win campaigns, she said.
This was an echo from keynote speaker Julia Gillard’s address the previous evening. The former Australian prime minister told a packed hall that progressives have leaned too long on facts, and expecting that facts are all that they need.
The weekend also featured policy-oriented sessions — opportunities to discuss and reflect on how a (potential future) progressive government would address things like resource development, manufacturing and jobs and the relationship between people and government through the tax system.
Broadbent Institute Executive Director Rick Smith, to close the Summit, delivered a campaign-style speech Sunday. He told the group it’s time for the left — the NDP, cough, cough — to go on the offence.
“We are the inheritors of the best country in the world. A country with a proud progressive tradition. But, a country that is moving in the wrong direction,” he said.
“So what are we going to do about that? Well, the best defence is a good offence.”
Citing bill C-23, the much-debated Fair Elections Act, his speech painted a stark picture between the progressive movement and the Conservative government — that the two are in opposition to each other.
So, Smith said, here’s what the Broadbent Institute is going to do, to deal with what almost everyone in the main hall of the Delta Hotel would call the government’s regressive policies: work with a team of Broadbent fellows to streamline a ”practical agenda for change” and train activists to take that agenda to peoples’ doorsteps.
“Continue working with us and with each other on a set of common priorities,” he appealed to the group, “to make our great country even greater.”
Delegates, volunteers and organizers were all-smiles for much of the weekend — interested in the conversations taking place, eager to get to work and hopeful their work will bear some political fruit in the future.
Earnest and hopeful and optimistic, for what will be an uphill battle towards 2015.
Posted by NationBuilder Support · March 29, 2014 4:10 PM
Check against delivery.
Julia Gillard Ottawa; Saturday, March 29, 2014
Thank you Ed for that kind introduction and thanks to you, Rick, the Board and staff of the Broadbent Institute for the invitation to speak today.
In my home town in Australia, Adelaide, it is going to be 32 degrees today but the warmth of the welcome I have received has compensated for the difference between that and the freezing Ottawa air. So I am simply delighted to be here to join you for this important event.