Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kyle Harrietha nominated as Liberal byelection candidate for Fort McMurray-Athabasca

Big news out of Northern Alberta, where on Saturday evening in a contested nomination, my friend Kyle Harrietha was nominated as the Liberal Party of Canada's candidate for the upcoming by-election in Fort McMurray-Athabasca.

The vacancy was created when Conservative MP Brian Jean decided to call it quits early after a period of thoroughly uninspiring representation in Ottawa (remember the crosswords?). For all the talk of supporting the oil sands we get out of the Conservatives, there are huge pressing infrastructure issues in the region that the feds have ignored, and the concerns of local indigenous populations have also been paid little attention.

The byelection, whenever it is called, will bring these issues into national focus, and I can think of no one better to carry the Liberal banner than Harrietha. To support his campaign, make a donation to the Fort McMurray-Athabasca Federal Liberal Riding Association today.

Below is the speech Kyle made to the nominating meeting last night. Good luck Kyle! Looking forward to paying a visit during the campaign.


Hello Everybody

It’s great to be here today and see so many new Liberal Members from across Wood Buffalo.

My name is Kyle Harrietha and I’m here to ask for your support and your vote as I seek the Liberal nomination for Fort McMurray—Athabasca in the upcoming by-election.

I’d like to begin by thanking Bill Loutitt for nominating me today.  I’m humbled by your support and I appreciate your friendship.  I’d also like to thank Chris Flett for putting his name forward for the Liberal nomination. It’s no small thing to allow your name to be on a ballot and I commend Chris for his commitment to this community and the Liberal Party.  Regardless of the result, this is a contest among friends, and I’ll certainly be there to support Chris in the upcoming by-election if the outcome today is in his favour.

As an active resident in this community which I love and call home, I believe we need a strong presence in our nation’s capital dedicated to ensuring our government makes a difference across our region. I’ve spent 16 years working for responsible and sustainable development — a just society that respects Aboriginal and minority rights, and accountable, fiscally responsible, transparent government.

I spent 7 years on Parliament Hill as a legislative and executive assistant for several Liberal Members of Parliament. I’ve also worked extensively on parliamentary committees including the Environment and Sustainable Development committee and Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics committee. I have a proven track record working for local non-profit organizations including the Cumulative Environmental Management Association where I spent 5 years as an Administrator for the Reclamation Working Group which develops guidelines for mine site reclamation. And I’m currently the McMurray Métis General Manager where I oversee an organization of seven staff and more than 300 members dedicated to pursuing the advancement of the Métis people of Northeastern Alberta.

A Member of Parliament is expected to advocate for local interests, address the concerns of residents, help in the creation of laws, and examine the work of our government and how it spends our money. Our previous Conservative Member of Parliament, who walked out of the job before his contract with voters was done, reduced his duties to taxpayer-funded mail outs with crossword puzzles and attack ads.  His only commentary involved finger-pointing at the failings of other levels of government while remaining silent on the Conservatives’ lack of action addressing federal issues affecting the future of Northeastern Alberta.  He even claimed the most pressing issues facing this community are largely out of federal hands.  Once you start working through the list of federal issues not being addressed, it’s obvious that’s false.

Our oil sands are the heart of Canada’s resource development industry and underpin hundreds of thousands of jobs, and yet, as Justin Trudeau has stated, the Conservatives have failed to move the yardsticks on one of the most important infrastructure projects in North America — the Keystone XL pipeline; which would ensure our oil sands get to market. They’ve also neglected to make the meaningful infrastructure investments required to ensure we maintain quality of life for residents in the face of the growth that comes with rapid industrial development.

According to an investigation published by the CBC there were over 2,600 Federal funding announcements across Canada in 2013 totalling almost $8.5 Billion. Does anybody here know how much of that was announced in Wood Buffalo or for Wood Buffalo? The answer is $0.  Not one Federal dollar was announced in or for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in 2013. Think about that.  $0 despite all the infrastructure issues and various other issues we’re facing.

When Wood Buffalo gets less money out of the Prime Minister’s Office then Senator Mike Duffy you know there’s a very big problem. And it’s not just with the old Duff.

Across the entire riding there were 3 announcements for Portage College in Lac la Biche, Wild Rose Senior’s Villa in Boyle, and a safe school’s grant in Wabasca.  Total: $11.2 million. And now the Conservative Government has the gall to demand $24-$60 million as the cost to Alberta taxpayers of purchasing or leasing the Willow Square land for our seniors. A rip-off if there ever was one.  It should be clear from those numbers alone that the Conservative Government takes this Region for granted.

The Conservatives have rolled back regulatory and environmental oversight to the point where First Nations and Métis communities have little confidence that their rights and traditional lands are being protected. This includes changes to the Navigable Waters Act taking most of the waterways in Northeastern Alberta off the list of water bodies under Federal environmental protection. And undermining Canada’s oldest Environmental legislation; the Federal Fisheries Act.  Enacted for the first time in 1868. It always used to be used to protect fish habitat.  Not anymore. And it doesn’t end there.

Trade unions have been undermined in the collective bargaining process they engage in to protect the rights and wages of thousands of workers across our region. There’s little support for the many new Canadians in Fort McMurray-Athabasca struggling with credentials recognition, a lack of support for skills training, and the ability to reunite in Canada with family stuck overseas due to our inefficient immigration system. It’s time for a change.

To bring about that change requires positive and collaborative action and a lot of hard work. It requires a Member of Parliament with a track record of working with stakeholders in our region including industry, other levels of government, Aboriginal groups, and NGOs. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work across Canada including Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. If there’s one thing you learn when living in Wood Buffalo it’s that Canada and the world lives here. And that we’re not just building a community in this region, we’re helping to build a country.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that leadership does not begin with a select few – it must be embodied by all of us. It’s about individual responsibility, mutual trust, and accountability. We’re the party that promotes the empowerment of the many. We’re not governed by one decision maker at the top.  We’re governed by the voters who put us there. If we want real change we will need to develop policies that inspire citizens to build a better community. And we must be there to support them.

Change will require all of us talk to our neighbours as we convince them to express confidence over doubt, to pick optimism over frustration, and to choose success over stagnation. We must always stand for a fair, open, and honest approach that generates change from the bottom up – and captures the hopes and aspirations of every community. And make no mistake – accountability is a conversation not a monologue.

I’m asking you choose conversation. To chose dialogue. And to help support a campaign like we’ve never seen in our community.

Thank-you for being here today and thank-you for voting.

I hope I can count on your support.

All the best.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 Liberal biennial photo album

A few shots from last weekend's Liberal Party of Canada biennial convention in Montreal.

IMG_20140222_144924IMG_2621IMG_2620IMG_2614IMG_2676Liberal Party of Canada 2014 Biennial

2014 Liberal Biennial, a set on Flickr.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Lessons from Stephen McNeil’s landslide Liberal victory in Nova Scotia

As part of the Liberal Party of Canada biennial session this afternoon on provincial and municipal best practices, we got an inside look at how the Nova Scotia Liberals won a historic majority government from campaign director (and federal Liberal VP English) Chris MacInnes. And Premier Stephen McNeil was in the room, just to keep him honest.

The work leading to last year’s victory was years in the making, said MacInnes. There’ a lot of windshield time when you’re Nova Scotia premier, from Darthmouth to Meat Cove. McNeill was on the road constantly for years.

The party made the decision after a tough loss in 2009 to build to a victory in 2013, and took definitive steps to see through the challenges and meet that goal.

One key step was the caucus office establishing an outreach team to reach out to communities they hadn’t traditionally reached out to. Partly because of that, they won with a strong slate of female candidates who now hold key positions in the government, electing a House of Assembly much more a reflection of a modern Nova Scotia.

They made a conscious decision to have research-based communications, instead of just shoot from the hip priorities. They did deep research to identify priorities, and focus caucus like a laser on those. They’d still hold the government to account, but the research helped to focus their priorities and they saw a direct correlation between their poll numbers going up and their focus on research-identified issues.

They did heavy pre-writ advertising for the first time, beginning one year from the election. The fundraising system was modernized – you couldn’t even donate on their web site until four years ago. They invested in the federal party’s Liberalist voter identification and management system, which MacInnes said fundamentally changed the way they fight elections in Nova Scotia, and will for years to come.

By bringing the call centre in-house for voter ID, training volunteers, Liberalist, polling and volunteers at the doors, MacInnes said they had four to five data points on where their support was during the campaign. The senior campaign team had confidence in the outcome – although they didn’t tell the leader – because of those data-points. Liberalist also helped the central campaign hold campaigns accountable – they knew if candidates were knocking on doors, and teams entering activist codes correctly.

Finally, MacInnes said the level of cooperation from the national party and different provincial wings was like he had never seen before. Volunteers came from as far away as BC to help. New Brunswick Liberal leader Brian Gallant campaigned in five ridings, and federal MP Dominic LeBlanc campaigned as well. Everyone was eager to join the campaign, and he said the cooperation between the federal and provincial campaigns was seamless, and they were always there with help on training, information and advice.

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Five keys to political success from Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s chief of staff, Chima Nkemdirim

I attended a panel on political best practices this afternoon at the Liberal Party of Canada 2014 biennial in Montreal, and one of the speakers was Chima Nkemdirim, chief of staff to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Describing himself to cheers as a Calgary Liberal, which isn’t always an easy thing to be (I speak from experience as a Liberal BCer), Nkemdirim shared best practices, tips and lessons from Nenshi’s two successful campaigns for mayor – the first of which began with the candidate literally polling at 0 – including these five keys to political success.

All Politics is Local

Most people don’t know what level of government does what. They care about issues. If you want to run, you must spend timing learning what people care about locally, and tailor what you want to talk about in your campaign to the issues people actually care about in your community.

Networking is more powerful then door knocking

While Nkemdirim isn’t saying don’t door knock, he says it’s an incredibly inefficient way to reach people. While everyone thinks Nenshi tweeted his way to victory, at its centre he says Nenshi’s first campaign was built on word of mouth. It was designed around getting people to talk to their friends and neighbours and explain why they’re supporting Nenshi. They trained our volunteers to talk about Nenshi. They found out that people are really nervous to talk about politics, and they need help. Their advice was to identify why you’re passionate about a candidate, and if you’re passionate for that reason your friends might be as well – you don’t need to know the whole platform. Coffee parties were a key part of the Nenshi campaigns. If your friend invites you to a coffee party to meet the candidate, you’re more likely to actually come.

The more data the better

You really need to have all the information about your constituency, said Nkemdirim. Understand what happened in past federal, provincial and municipal elections. What are the key issues in the area? What keeps people up at night? Understanding those issues will help you build your platform. Do a lot of research on the incumbent. Read everything they’ve ever written and said, understand why their values aren’t in line with the community’s, and why your candidate is better.

The candidate does matter

Even in a party system where conventional wisdom says 80 per cent of people vote for the leader, Nkemdirim said he really believes the candidate does matter. There are three Alberta Liberal MLAs, and he said he believes each got elected because they were the best candidate. The campaign should be approached like a job interview.

You’ve got to stand for something

Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Inveson talk about politics in full sentence – a phrase Nkemdirim said they borrowed from The West Wing. People aren’t stupid. They want you to get into detail about why you’re running, what you’re about, and why you’re the best candidate. They want to trust you’re the best candidate for the community; trust them with detailed answers.

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