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MONTREAL—To run or not to run: while Justin Trudeau mulls his career options, other Liberal leadership contenders are quietly putting their own plans on ice.
Martin Cauchon is a case in point.
A month ago, his entry in leadership race was widely seen as a foregone conclusion. But if Trudeau does bid for the job, the former justice minister will almost certainly watch the campaign from the sidelines.
Moreover, Cauchon expects to have a lot of company.
In a recent conversation, he suggested that if Trudeau ran, most of the would-be aspirants who currently make up the top tier of the unofficial leadership list could end up taking a pass on the campaign.
Among the first to do so would be those who, like him, failed to win a seat in the last election.
Cauchon notes that under any scenario, it would be difficult for anyone who has to earn a living outside Parliament to sustain a campaign as long as this one. To do so as a long-shot candidate would be next to impossible.
As the experience of recent Liberal and NDP leadership candidates demonstrates, raising the funds to finance even a minimalist campaign has become a significant challenge under the more restrictive rules that have come into effect over the past decade.
Cauchon would have preferred to see the leadership vote advanced to the fall for that reason and also to limit the period over which Thomas Mulcair has free rein to take advantage of an empty Liberal net.
That battle was lost last month when the party executive announced that the next leader would not be chosen until next April.
Trudeau’s simultaneous announcement that he was reconsidering his initial decision to stay out of the ring has — for all intents and purposes — put the race on hold until his intentions are clear.
Notwithstanding their elected status, Trudeau’s fellow MPs cannot hope to contend against him on anything approaching a level playing field.
At almost 140,000 subscribers, Trudeau’s Twitter following alone is larger than the post-leadership membership of the federal NDP.
Not all of them are fans, of course, but Trudeau’s base remains many times larger than that of any other prospective contender. That translates into a formidable fundraising edge; one that is reinforced by favourable polling data.
It is not necessary to subscribe to the narrative of a near-miraculous Liberal recovery under Trudeau to find that none of the other would-be candidates generates a fraction of the popular interest that he attracts.
For many attention-deprived Liberals, he offers an irresistible combination of leadership assets.
Even if the party’s elite was wary of succumbing to the untested charms of a Trudeau bid, under new rules that allow non-members to vote for the next leader the preferences of the Liberal establishment will not count for much in the final outcome.
In any event, there is so far no sign of the kind of resistance movement that saw part of the NDP brass throw itself under the wheels of Mulcair’s leadership train last spring.
Asked whether he had picked a horse to back in the upcoming leadership race, a senior Liberal organizer’s recent tongue-in-cheek’s response was to ask whether there was more than one to choose from.
Meanwhile, for a politician who has yet to come to a decision, Trudeau is very much acting like someone who is running for something.
Since Parliament adjourned for the summer, he has been a constant presence on the barbecue circuit. Over the weekend, he was one of only a handful of Liberals to attend the Calgary Stampede.
After the last election, the Liberals promised to open up their leadership process.
The party worked hard to ensure that Bob Rae would not seamlessly transit from interim to permanent leader,
It opted to use up almost half of this Parliament’s natural life to look for a suitable leader.
It decided to open the leadership vote to all comers.
At this juncture, the irony is that every one of those moves stands to help turn the campaign into a walk in the park for Justin Trudeau.
Chantal Hébert National Columnist
Tell key Conservati
ve MPs: Stand up to Harper, Defend Democracy
Canadians from across the political spectrum are uniting against the Omnibus Budget Bill. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Prime
Minister Harper is becoming “increasingly isolated” as more and more
Conservatives speak out against his anti-democratic attempt to remake
our society. 
The outrageous nature of this bill is provoking incredible statements from conservative politicians. Former Cabinet Minister Tom Siddon said: “We don’t understand why you have to roll this all into one bill and ramrod it through Parliament….This is unbecoming of the Conservative party to which I belonged.” 
The Budget Bill is becoming a symbol of the struggle to defend Canadian democracy. Many Conservative MPs have deep concerns about the bill. Now they face a real choice: will they allow this reckless bill to pass, or will they stand up to Harper and defend our democracy?
Voting on the bill starts in Parliament this week. We need your help to create a massive public outcry right now, and flood Conservative MP offices with thousands of messages calling on them to defend our democracy and stop the Budget Bill:
Just 13 Conservative MPs can stop this Budget Bill, split it apart and start over, by simply telling Prime Minister Harper that they would deny him the majority of votes he needs to pass it.
These MPs are isolated in a government that keeps them in the dark and discourages them from representing our voices. We need a strong show of support for principled, honest action now to give our MPs the courage they need.
Click here to send an urgent message direct to the Conservative MP constituency offices in your province, calling on them to be one of the 13 heroes we need to stop this bill:
From flooding Conservative MPs with pro-democracy messages, to amplifying opposition to this bill in the media, to rallying at MP offices on Wednesday night, we have a real opportunity to bring Canadians together, from across the political spectrum, to stand up to Harper and his Ministers.
Thanks for so much for all you do.
With hope and respect,
Matthew, Jamie, Jen, Julia, Ryan, Crystel, Sanna, Logan, Heather and Reilly on behalf of the Leadnow.ca team
p.s. On Wednesday evening as our MPs gather in Ottawa for a decisive showdown in Parliament, we’ll rally their home ridings, and communities across Canada. You can find the rally nearest you and RSVP at http://heroes.leadnow.ca/
 Harper’s new enemy: Conservatives (Ottawa Citizen)
 The Era of the Red Tory is Long Gone (Hamilton Spectator)
Which Politicians are on Your Side
We need to act quickly. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, far from backing down, is pushing for a renewed multi-faceted scheme to erode Canadians’ online privacy rights. Your MP needs to hear from you today.
Canadians have been raising a loud national call for every MP to stand against costly and invasive online spying. Thanks to the pro-Internet community, the video went viral and got national news coverage from CBC,1 among others.
The response so far has exceeded our expectations: Over sixty MPs have signed up as Pro-Privacy politicians through our online tool. We have a real opportunity right now to tip the scales in favour of our online rights.
We need to act quickly. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, far from backing down, is pushing for a renewed multi-faceted scheme to erode Canadians’ online privacy rights: Toews has also quietly been working on a deal with the U.S. known as “Perimeter Security”, which could lead to the U.S. government having access to your private data.2
We have momentum now, with over sixty MPs—nearly two-thirds of opposition MPs—on our side. Let’s seize this crucial moment and turn up the heat on the government.
Thank you for all that you do to safeguard the open, affordable, surveillance-free Internet.
Steve and Lindsey, on behalf of your OpenMedia.ca team
P.S. You can see exactly which MPs are on your side, and which are not, using our new Pro-Privacy MP display tool here: http://openmedia.ca/WithCanada
Open Letter to the CFS: A Response from Quebec Activists
We write as student activists in Québec who have been involved in organizing the 2011-2012 general student strike - on both anglophone and francophone campuses.
We are ecstatic to hear that so many students in the rest of Canada are building a campaign to mobilize similar strikes in Ontario and elsewhere. We are heartened by the outpouring of solidarity, and we believe that the best way that students outside Québec can join the movement is by mobilizing strikes from the ground up in their own communities.
Open Letter to the CFS assumes that strikes can be organized by “elected student leaders” and masterminded provincially, if not nationally. Certainly, the Federation can and must support strike initiatives. However, these have to be built from the ground up and through structures of direct democracy - specifically, general assemblies which are fully empowered to make real decisions. This is something that we have learned again and again in Québec, and this method of organizing has consistently proven to be the only way to build viable strike movements. Students feel a sense of ownership over movements created this way, which cannot be undermined by claims of a minority imposing their will on a majority.
Strike campaigns or votes must not be imposed by student federations, or even individual unions. They must be organized by activists on the ground and discussed in regular general assemblies to involve the broader student body. Strategically, organizing strikes first where they’re most likely to succeed - in traditionally progressive departmental unions rather than faculty or campus unions - will ensure the kind of momentum-building that could lead to a general strike of Ontario students.
There are, however, a number of things that the Federation can and must do to support a general strike movement. Educational campaigns, facilitating solidarity delegations, workshops, and activist exchanges are extremely important, even if they do not replace locally-focused campaigns. Perhaps most importantly, the CFS could facilitate the creation or mobilization of politically autonomous departmental associations, which barely exist on many anglophone campuses. In fact, the first unlimited strikes in the history of McGill and Concordia Universities were organized mainly in previously dormant departmental unions.
The formation of mobilized, combative departmental unions built upon structures of direct democracy needs to be seen as a consequence of strike campaigns, not a necessary precondition without which activists’ hands are tied. There is always a way forward.
We are optimistic that a general student strike in Ontario can and will succeed, given the right ingredients. Open Letter to the CFS represents a first step towards creating a radical, democratic strike movement in Ontario and beyond. As we watch students lay the foundations for powerful strike movements across the country, we hope we can continue to share our experience in Quebec - both successes and failures.
Endorse THE N.O.T.A. OPTION
"None of The Above"
On All Voting Ballets
The People's Veto
of Principle: All legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold
consent; "None of the Above" gives the voter the ballot option to
withhold consent from an election to office, just as voters can cast a
"No" vote on a ballot question. In Canada we have options of returning a
ballot, or spoiling it and though the numbers of spoiled ballots are
counted there is no recourse to the lack of support of our elected prime
ministers, Mayors and Premiers.
If "None of the Above; For a New Election" receives the most votes, no candidate is elected to that office and a follow-up by-election, with new candidates, is held. Follow-up by-elections are far less costly than electing unacceptable candidates to office.
"N.O.T.A." Would end the "must hire" elections where voters are often forced to vote for the least unacceptable candidate, the all too familiar "lesser evil." The meaning of elections should become more clear, since voters would no longer be tempted to vote for a presumed losing candidate, with whom they really do not agree, as a protest vote.
N.O.T.A. should reduce negative campaigning by encouraging candidates to campaign for their own candidacy rather than against their opponent's candidacy. Additionally this will mean a return to issue based politics, with a strong power in place to punish those who do not fulfill election promises. Many voters and non voters, who now register their disapproval of all candidates for an office by not voting, could cast a meaningful vote.
Campaign contributors who give to all candidates to insure "access" would no longer be sure they backed the winner; in general, buying elections should become a more uncertain enterprise.
Office holders, knowing they face "N.O.T.A." in the next election, would be encouraged to insure their re-election by focusing more on doing a good job in office and less on attempting to prevent the emergence of an effective opposition candidate or gaining contributions from those who have a vested interest in controlling the political system.
When pre-election polls include "N.O.T.A.", the feedback from voters should help guide candidates and parties. Even when "N.O.T.A." does not win or is a non-binding N.O.T.A. the reported NOTA vote would help identify those offices for which voters might be more receptive to new candidates in a future election as well as limits the winner's mandate.
Lastly, opportunities for election fraud should be reduced because fewer blank votes for an office would be cast.
Rock The Vote is dedicated to enacting Voter Consent laws.
Canada should Support Quebec students and message against austerity
No wonder those Quebec student protestors have been spooking the English Canadian establishment. If they get their way, the same ideas could catch on here, leaving the best-laid plans for austerity in tatters.
What seems to particularly gall some English Canadian commentators is the
fact that the Quebec students — who reached a tentative deal with the province on the weekend after a three-month strike — have been protesting tuition hikes that would still leave them with the lowest tuition in the country. Why can’t these spoiled brats be grateful, and go back to watching video games and keeping up with the Kardashians like normal, well-adjusted North American youth?
It’s that old problem about Quebec. Somehow people there manage to shake a bit loose from the rigid corporate-imposed mindset that has gripped North America in recent decades, convincing us that we as a society must cut back on things — like university education and old age pensions — that were somehow affordable in days when our society was a lot less rich.
The Quebec students, more attuned to the outside world, have figured out that this self-denial has more to do with dogma than with some new reality allegedly necessitated by the global economy.
How else to explain the fact that many northern European nations manage to keep university education easily affordable — even free in Scandinavia — while managing to compete very effectively in the global economy?
The Norwegian embassy in Ottawa confirmed yesterday that, in addition to free tuition, Norway provides a stipend to cover much of a student’s living expenses. (Of course, Norway is blessed with ample oil reserves — almost as blessed as Canada.)
The Scandinavians — and the Quebec students — consider higher education a public good, essential to democracy.
Many Scandinavian countries demonstrate their commitment to this concept — and to genuine global community — by even offering free university tuition to foreigners, including North Americans. We reciprocate by treating foreign students like cash cows to be milked relentlessly, charging them tuition fees roughly three times the Canadian rate.
Now there’s the spirit of global co-operation!
This lack of generosity toward others isn’t surprising since we even throw our own young under the bus. Student debt here, which falls disproportionately on low-income households, now totals $14.4 billion and growing by the second, as demonstrated by the ticking debt clock on the Canadian Federation of Students website.
Of course, high tuition also enables our establishment to keep students on a tight leash, focused on getting into professional and business schools (where they’ll have some hope of repaying their debts) and keeping clear of courses that might teach them to question prevailing orthodoxies and mindsets.
Some mistakenly see a generational war going on here. But the austerity fetishists also have their sights set on the older crowd, with plans to take away two years of their retirement.
Under the more sensible Scandinavian approach — banned under the business dogma that dominates here — the tax and transfer system helps citizens move through the stages of their lives.
Education is paid for by those in the workforce whose retirement will later be paid for by the students whose education they paid for. Over the life cycle, it all works out. Everybody contributes when they’re working, and gets a hand at the beginning and end of their lives.
Everyone also has a chance to develop to the best of their abilities, maximizing their own potential and raising national productivity.
Rex Murphy, writing in the National Post, dismissed the student protests as “the future elite of Quebec having a self-indulgent fit.”
It’s an odd form of self-indulgence. Tens of thousands of students have marched hundreds of hours in the cold, potentially jeopardizing their academic (and financial) futures, in order to champion accessible education for all as the cornerstone of a democratic society.
If only they could be less self indulgent, and stick to drinking, partying and finding themselves a comfortable niche in the corporate world.