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We're only a couple of weeks into the 2023 Major League Baseball season, but federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh just whiffed on the fattest political pitch of his career.

After news of Loblaw CEO Galen Weston Jr.’s pay raise hit the media — framed by the consultants his family’s business hired as him being “underpaid” — Singh tweeted: “Every cent of Greedy Galen's 55% raise deserves to be taxed. And, then given back to you, your family, and foodbanks throughout Canada.”

He then directed followers to sign a petition, the preferred strategy of both his party and the Conservative Party of Canada on almost every issue these days. There’s just one problem: every penny of Weston Jr.’s raise is already taxed. If he means it should be taxed at 100 per cent, then that would have to apply to everyone earning a salary above a certain level, since we obviously don’t single individual people out for different tax treatment. And as University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe noted, that would probably have the effect of actually reducing overall government tax revenues.

But if Singh’s proposed solution was off target, his anger certainly wasn’t. It’s hard to believe that someone whose company employs as many public relations experts as Weston Jr. could be so impossibly tone-deaf, but either he’s not listening to them or they’re not telling him the truth. Accepting a 55 per cent raise as the CEO of a grocery company right as the country is in the midst of a national conversation about whether corporate greed is driving food price inflation is an invitation to outrage, and it’s one Canadians should indulge in en masse.

Worse, his pay hike is a direct result of the elevated prices Canadians paid for groceries last year. “Seventy per cent of Loblaws annual performance bonus is based on sales and earnings goals,” according to a Globe and Mail report. “The company’s results resulted in maximum payouts of 200 per cent of the bonus targets.”

Weston Jr. is no mere corporate CEO, either. Sure, his $8.4-million pay package isn’t the highest in the country, and it’s not really all that close. But as the son of privilege, who inherited his position and standing among Canada’s elite, and the literal spokesperson for Loblaws, he’s the perfect avatar for corporate and capitalist greed. Why he would engage in this sort of deliberate provocation is anyone’s guess, but mine is that he’s too cloistered and blinkered to see the error of his ways.

Sure, his family business paid some consultants to pretend this pay raise is somehow justified. The results of their review “suggested that Mr. Weston’s total direct compensation was below the market median and Weston’s and Loblaws compensation policy objectives,” the company’s proxy stated. They made that determination by comparing his pay to other corporate executives — who, in turn, now get to use his pay as a benchmark for their own raises. If there’s a more obvious racket in Canada right now, I’m hard-pressed to imagine what it could be.

This should be easy pickings for the NDP. But instead of making a meal of it, Singh used it to volunteer his own economic illiteracy — and turned an easy win into an own goal. Canada needs a left-wing party that can make a compelling case for a renewed economic order, one in which an executive’s pay is more tightly and transparently linked to that of their average employee. And after two federal elections in which he’s won 24 and then 25 seats — both a far cry from the 44 seats Tom Mulcair won in 2015, never mind the high-water mark of 103 set by Jack Layton in 2011 — it should be clear Singh isn’t the leader to make that happen.

Daniel Blaikie, the three-term MP for Elmwood-Transcona, just might be. His recent speech in the House of Commons on the role of disappearing federal support for social housing went viral on social media, and no wonder — it perfectly captured the frustration so many young Canadians feel with both Liberal inaction on the housing file and the simplistic solutions being proposed by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.

Galen Weston Jr.'s massive pay raise was an affront and an embarrassment. So how did NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh manage to turn it into a demonstration of his own shortcomings as leader? @maxfawcett writes for @NatObserver

Blaikie, who is the son of former NDP MP Bill Blaikie, may not have leadership aspirations. And Canada may not need, or want, another political scion at the head of a national party — much less another straight white man. But the federal NDP should be preparing for life after its supply-and-confidence agreement with the Trudeau Liberals — and life after Jagmeet Singh.

If they ever want to be more than a junior partner in future coalitions, they’ll have to start connecting more with Canadians on bread-and-butter economic issues. Blaikie’s housing sermon, and the way it resonated with so many people, would be a good place to start.


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This is not the only issue that Jagmeet Singh has displayed ignorance. He consistently conflates Federal and Provincial areas of jurisdiction, attacking Trudeau because Doug Ford is not spending enough on Health care (for the record, DF doesn't even spend the money his party allocated). There is no way that Mr. Singh can truly be that ignorant, forcing me to conclude he would rather score points against Trudeau than truly campaign on the issues. For the first time since Tommy Douglas, NDP voters are seeing some of their policies implemented (not all, but who ever sees their entire agenda implemented). Let's hope that Mr. Singh doesn't blow this historic opportunity for a better photo op, or NDP voters may see all of the gains they made on child care and dental care disappear.

Horse race aside though, the bottom line is that by quietly signing on with the Liberals Jagmeet has accomplished the sterling and singular achievement of dental care.
Annoyingly, he seems compelled to play the usual game of completely ignoring the Liberals' part in this, but it is this same spirit that could also explain some of his lapses, including the one Max mentions here. Not being as good at the game may well come from being a relative outsider, NOT one of the white boys, but also entirely recommends him to those of us actually interested in good governance.
The best part of getting rid of first past the post would be to relegate the horse race and the power/glory hounds that go with it, and since uniting progressives can't somehow be considered (?!) the informal coalition we have is as good as it gets under the circumstances. So credit to both Jagmeet's and Justin's real leadership.
Having said that, Daniel Blaikie is indeed impressive and I don't see his father's affiliation as an automatic negative any more than I do Trudeau's. Being "to the manor born" also means you're familiar with the system which has its advantages. That's just another conservative narrative derived from the bogus "elite" BS.

Re: The "informal coalition."

The Liberal-NDP minority government is not a coalition of any kind. A true coalition places members of participating parties in actual cabinet positions. That seems nearly impossible in this country where political parties are irrationally partisan and filled with career-minded individuals possessing supersized, insecure egos tinged with naivete, traits that are the antithesis of the confident, evidence based consensus building co-operation necessary to build a coalition and actually accomplish the very policies the Libs, NDP and Greens talk about all the time. Our parties also turn their fight inward as much as outward.

Personally, after decades of this disappointing nonsense, I am very tired of the kindergarten cacophony. I now put more faith in cold, hard electoral math. I feel the individual centre-left parties need to EARN my trust after breaking it too many times in the past. I am expected by my peers to vote for my principles. That is impossible when individual parties or candidates do not align with enough of my principles, or have violated them. Without co-operation amongst Libs-Dems-Greens to simply work together on the many policies they all largely agree on (as does 2/3 of the Canadian electorate), I will vote in favour of only one candidate best able to keep the Conservative candidate in my competitive riding out of the winner's seat.

In an ideal world, the Liberals, NDP and Greens would hold behind-the scenes discussions about forming a temporary coalition for an agreed amount of time in government (say, three years with an automatic review at the 2 1/2 year mark) and focus on their top five principles. Climate, healthcare, infrastructure (including housing and transit) and others will no doubt be very important to all three parties. They would agree in advance to compose a rationale for designating cabinet positions and compose a well thought out range of specific goals and objectives to act on quickly (after they win an election) that are in line with the Five Principles. They will also agree to place inter-party disputes on the back burner, discipline members who are unreasonably uncooperative, and give the Principles and good governance their full attention. Lastly, they will run just one Liberal/Democratic/Green candidate in every riding and avoid working against each other. This may be a tough one for Libs and Dems to deal with at the riding and party board level, but meeting that challenge gives them a real shot at genuine power in government, and makes the choice for voters an easy one.

Until that happens, I will remain a strategic voter and further acknowledge my growing belief that emerging powerful economic trends will force the issue of adequately addressing climate change when the politicians have been such a big disappointment for too long. I also believe that Canada is not a socially conservative nation and movements as such will not have a permanent effect on the majority.

Fawcett: "[Daniel Blaikie' s recent speech] perfectly captured the frustration so many young Canadians feel with both LIBERAL INACTION ON THE HOUSING FILE and the simplistic solutions being proposed by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre."

So why isn't Max Fawcett tearing a strip off the unnamed Liberal leader? Isn't he responsible for "Liberal inaction on the housing file"? Why does Trudeau escape criticism?
Not a fan of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh or Loblaw CEO Galen Weston Jr. — but Max Fawcett's outrage seems misdirected. Go after the government leaders making the decisions. Accountability starts with the party and people in power.

Fawcett: "Canada needs a left-wing party that can make a compelling case for a renewed economic order, one in which an executive’s pay is more tightly and transparently linked to that of their average employee."

Why can't the Liberals make that case? Aren't the Liberals a "progressive" party? Why is it up to the NDP?
Why the animus against the fairly innocuous NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh? Singh is not PM, and never will be.
Unless the goal is misdirection and distraction from Liberal failure. Highly convenient for Trudeau, flailing amidst the party's declining popularity.
Cheque's in the mail, Max.

It does seem to me, sometimes, that the CNO is a PR arm of the LPC; it's very odd. (On the other hand, I listened, last night, to Max Fawcett's podcast of his softball "interview" with Rachel Notley https://www.nationalobserver.com/podcast/maxed-out/rachel-notley-interview in which he came across as something other than a journalist seeeking to challenge his guest.)

A recent article on Danielle Smith's "existential threat" characterization of Ottawa, for example, ( https://www.nationalobserver.com/2023/03/24/news/federal-climate-policy-... ) closed with the following paragraph, apparently in an entirely non-ironic sense, merely to stick a tongue out at Ms. Smith and yell "Liar Liar, pants on fire"; it was clearly without criticism of the actual words that Minister Wilkinson said:

"Smith has repeatedly attacked Justin Trudeau’s government for proposing a just transition plan that she says signals the end of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. This assertion contrasts starkly with the contents of the plan and comments made by federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who assured MPs in November: “This global shift to a low-carbon future can be accomplished without phasing out Canada’s oil and gas sector.”"

There you are again, sounding like a conservative apologist. Give credit where credit's due how about?

Nowhere did I defend the Conservatives.
If the issue is "inaction on the housing file", or a "renewed economic order" and economic equity, hold the government and people in power to account.
Neither the Conservatives nor the NDP are responsible for Liberal inaction and failure.
Max Fawcett is barking up the wrong tree.

The role and responsibility of the media is to tell truth to power. Not choose sides.
Fawcett wears his partisanship on his sleeve.
Doubtless the Liberal Party appreciates Fawcett's uncritical support, but as political analysis his commentary fails.
A disservice to readers.

MY point is that under the circumstances of time running out and the wolf being at the door, we need to grow up, get a perspective and become far more UTILITARIAN about our politics.
That starts with abandoning the narcissistic notion of our vote mainly being a form of personal expression; it's time to stop allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

Fawcett: "Worse, [Weston's] pay hike is a direct result of the elevated prices Canadians paid for groceries last year.

"All three grocers raked in higher profits in the first half of 2022 compared with their average performance over the past five years. But Weston told MPs that Loblaw has made bigger profits off financial services, apparel and pharmacy, and said food prices have increased about 25 times faster than Loblaw's profit margins on food products.
"Loblaw CEO Galen Weston's compensation jumps 55 per cent to $8.4 million (CTV, April 5, 2023)

"Galen Weston Jr., president of Loblaw, also refuted accusations of profit-mongering, saying that grocery profit margins remain small, at about 4%.
"'That means even if the industry had zero profits, a $25 grocery bill would still cost $24,' said Weston. He attributes the company’s bigger profits to its other offerings that make up over half of its business, like financial services and clothing.
"Food Inflation In Canada: What You Need To Know" (Forbes, Mar 24, 2023)

"Loblaw president Galen Weston insisted that higher profits at his company are mostly due to higher sales in non-food items, such as discretionary spending at Shoppers Drug Mart, on its Joe Fresh clothing line and at its financial services arm.
"Gebara made similar arguments during his own testimony at committee, saying that Walmart's margins on groceries are lower compared to non-food items.
"The three Canadian firms said they need to compete with American rivals, including Walmart.
"'We compete against some of the toughest food retailers in the world, including Walmart, Amazon and Costco,' said Michael Medline, the CEO of Empire Foods.
"Walmart joins Canadian grocery rivals in pushing back against profiteering claims" (CBC, Mar 27, 2023)

Wait. You mean Weston isn't turning down the raise? Giving it back? Donating it to food banks? This wasn't a PR stunt to show his deep sense of compassion and generosity?

It's not too late, Galen! Do it! C'mon, do it!

No doubt his accountants would recommend a donation if it were "tax efficient": don't hold your breath!

The NDP does need to make the case for "progressive economic policies" and communal equity. This is long over due. They (we) could also take to heqqrt this comment on UK politics:
"The point is about two conceptions of politics. One is a game where victory goes to whichever side most thoroughly destroys the credibility of their opponent [See Max Fawcett]. The other is a painstaking problem-solving exercise where success is eked out on slivers of common ground between apparently irreconcilable forces [Jagmeet maybe?]. The problem-solvers see democratic politics, conducted within recognised parameters of decency, as society’s guarantee against civil strife. The game-players treat politics as an extended metaphor of all-out war [e.g. Polievre].

I agree that progressives should be much more vocal regularly (if we've learned anything from this latest iteration of conservatives, it's that people succumb to "narratives" far more readily than was previously thought, often unwittingly and indiscriminately....) So find a progressive earworm soundbite or slogan using "woke" or "socialism" and repeat it frequently. (A good example is how"climate change" is now used routinely by media people where it wasn't before, making it more widely accepted.)
And when it's conservatives you're actually talking about, NAME them as well as the bad faith actors, every time, because they overwhelmingly are. THEY have certainly taken full advantage of all the polite bothsidesism and journalistic objectivity to gleefully storm any and all recognized "parameters of decency." They've SO overdone this now that they really should be fish in a barrel.
I don't see Max Fawcett as a Liberal shill or an actual proponent of strategy and tactics above all else; I think he's a bona fide progressive responding in kind to the reality on the ground wherever men are in charge, especially conservative men.
I keep saying this but still perceive it regularly, that on the topic of unconsciously succumbing to narratives, most commenters on here have done that when it comes to Trudeau and the Liberals generally. I correlate this to when I first went on Facebook (no longer am) and when comments were still allowed by all media, even the Globe and Mail, where I was stunned at the level of vitriol against him personally as in "Trudy" and "Turdeau" and the "Libtards." Even David Suzuki, a first. That's when I realized a fundamental shift had occurred.

This has to be the most weaksauce attack on a politician I have ever seen. What Mr. Fawcett is saying is he totally agrees with what Singh is getting at, but dislikes the way he phrased it. That's it. And this by him is a reason Singh should resign as leader.

Poilievre is a serial liar and a fascist and his policies would do massive harm to the country. Justin Trudeau has many, many poor and ineffectual policies and his positions on major issues (such as climate change) are massively internally contradictory. It is clear that his moral compass, while it kind of exists, is weak, easily swayed by wealthy and powerful lobbyists to do corrupt actions, or retreat to inaction, on important files. And Singh . . . didn't express himself in the way Fawcett would have preferred. Oh, well, now THAT's heinous!

Really, why are we talking about this? There may well be an account of Singh's leadership that makes a solid case that someone else should be leader of the NDP. This wasn't it, it was just tired Liberal shilling.