Robin V. Sears is a principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group and was an NDP strategist for 20 years.

Articles by this author

9/11: the day the world changed

To each generation comes at least one day which changes their world: Sarajevo, Black Friday, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima. For mine it was a cold fall day in November 1963. Bouncing down St. Clair Avenue in …

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A very Canadian question of balance

”œOnce a generation, Canadians get the mumps. They always recover and return to the Liberal Party.” Jack Pickersgill (veter- an senior Liberal cabinet minister, circa 1958) ”œPolitics is too important to be left to the politicians, …

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Afghanistan: The last war of choice

Since the discovery of the marvellous skull-smashing potential of a large rock, kings and tyrants have been thrilled by war. For several millennia war was the default choice for subduing an opponent or stealing his …

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America's renaissance of hope

We've had some dark days in this democracy over the past seven years and today the sun is out. It is shining brightly. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill Record low turnouts, historic high cynicism and deep despair about …

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Beyond Kyoto and Keystone

When political rhetoric reduces complex policy even the most distinguished statesmen. This set of decisions to light switch choices, the outcome is usually poisonous or paralyzing. Good/bad choices in government are always rare, and in times of …

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Bridging the political productivity gap

Getting people to work harder while paying them less. Madeleine Drohan Why is it that getting voters to support productiv- ity improvement always seems to fail? Politicians pleading that ”œour children will suf- fer” if we don't …

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Canada: if you build it, people will come

Canada's first great national dream ”” our conti- nent-straddling, glittering ribbon of steel, from sea to shining sea ”” always had a dark side. Hundreds of imported Chinese coolies plunged to their deaths in swamps …

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From Cairo to Canada, a very big year

“Big Years” come once a decade, or so historians tell us. They are defined by eruptions, wars and revolutions, often totally unforeseen. Churchill would argue that 1939 should have been foreseen, as should 1949, when …

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From Harris to Hudak: the right stuff

Nothing reveals the decline of a political party more cruelly than a leadership contest. First there is the candidate field. Recall the sad parade of “star candidates” who apologetically bowed out when the bell rang …

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From Hogtown to Cowtown: The October revolution

Bloody revolutions happen more often than the defeat of Canadian municipal politicians. Canadian councillors defy that old axiom that all political careers end in “death, defeat or dishonour.” Few die in office. Most simply climb the …

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How Ontario got a one-issue campaign

When they called this election, few cared and fewer came. What is going on? Not since 1923 have so few Ontarians bothered to vote. For the first time nearly a majority of citizens said ”œnone …

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Le bon Jack

Strong leaders deny or disguise their disease and disability. Roman emperors and English kings did it. Roosevelt and Churchill did it. So did John Kennedy and even Tommy Douglas. As recently as the 1980s, David Lewis …

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Michael and Bob: the fox and the hedgehog

"The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” The Hedgehog and the Fox Isaiah Berlin (1953) Isaiah Berlin, the last great 19th century liberal, lived and taught and had a huge impact until the …

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NAFTA nonsense

The pharaohs did it. English kings do it. Every govern- ment does it. Let's all do it, let's fall in love...with bashing foreign trade. Second only to a war abroad as the best distraction from …

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Necessary fables

Sainted founders, sacred relics and heroic fables are the necessary ingredients of party-building for any serious political movement. They bind activists to the cause in dark times and are the stuff of celebratory toasts on …

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None of the above, thank you

Elections are rarely exercises in exorcism. But two political ghosts repeatedly hauled out to frighten voters and small children were finally banished by Ontario voters. The Liberals tried one more time to brandish the threat …

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On the shoulders of giants

It is painfully clichéd to bemoan the missing giants on today's political stage. Nostalgia and weak memory erase many sins. Pundits unanimously rue the political pygmies who have replaced the legendary premiers and first ministers …

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Our crippled campaign finance system

Until the end of his career in the 1980s, Tommy Douglas used to delight audiences with this story about the butter-churning ladies of Weyburn, Saskatchewan: In the depths of the bitter Depression years on the …

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Passing the torch...or not?

”œI am a member of no organized political party...I am a Democrat.” Will Rogers For forty years, American presidential politics has been in a comfortable rut. Beginning with the epochal Nixon campaign in the 1968 election …

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The carnival mirror

The Liberal Party today is the short skinny guy on the carnival midway beaming happily at his reflection in the funhouse mirror. The tall buff giant shining back at him is his perceived reality. New Democrats, …

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The discipline of power

What Eugene Lang fails to appreciate, absent senior experience in government, one suspects, is the total disconnect between opposition fantasies and “the discipline of power,” as Jeffrey Simpson so aptly framed it a generation ago.  Party …

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The impossible deal

In the fall of 1975, in a small, private Ottawa hotel dining room, two senior American political consultants were chatting amiably with three Canadians party officials. A Liberal, a Tory and a New Democrat party …

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The left: from hope to sneers in only 25 years

”œIn any campaign, the first stronghold you must occupy, is your Enemy's consciousness.” Felix Dzerzhinsky Sometime around 1980, in most of the democracies, the impossible happened. Radical conservatives donned the mantle of legitimacy and power, and successfully …

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The old accountability shuffle

”œNever credit to conspiracy what simple incompetence can adequately describe.” Napoleon ”œTrust is the coin of the realm.” George Shultz Friends of the Harper government are divided on how they got their version of government accountability reform so badly …

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The road to power

The consensus on Canadian politics today among the Hy's restaurant hangers-on is that it is a superhighway. Four aging and somewhat battered opposition vehicles trundle down the slow lanes, bumping each other for position. In …

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The surprising failure of the Obama presidency

Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency was a brilliant fusion of unique ingredients. Among them was the astonishing feat of persuading tens of millions of Americans to suspend their disbelief. Seduced by his presence, his soaring …

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The unbearable rightness of voters

Canadian voters knew what they wanted. They had been telling pollsters for months. They wanted to deliver a sharp slap to the Canadian political estab- lishment, to elect a weak and chastened government, and to …

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Toward a North American climate accord

As his time in office grows, so does Stephen Harper's comfort in the role of prime minister. He increasingly demonstrates that he is that rarest of political species, a leader with both an overarching strategic …

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Why are the Democrats such losers?

Looking back, one can see the landscape created by the shifting of politics' grand tectonic plates. As they are slowing grinding into new alignments it is almost impossible to understand the changes underway. As Conrad Black …

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