Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Amending hate crime legislation to include 'sex'": Its A Terrible Idea

The Liberal Women's caucus wants to "Amend existing hate crime legislation to include “sex”, the legal description for gender."

The whole point of hate crime legislation is not to further punish any crime that is motivated by hate. That would be a long list indeed. No the point of such legislation is instrumental and not punitive. The purpose is to target organizations (e.g., the KKK) and segments of the population (e.g., young males who routinely beat up gay males for sport) who target identifiable groups (e.g, racial minorities) for no other reason than what members of these groups look like or what sex they sleep with. As women in Canada are not targeted by various fringe groups or targeted and beaten up by gangs of bored youth, there is no reason to include women in such at list.

It is only the instrumental function of such legislation that half way justifies such a policy. If it serves no instrumental purpose, handing out different sentences depending on who is victimized is a perversion of justice.

This is not to say that there might not be cause in the future. Take what has happened in France with regard to the hijab. Many French officials argued for a ban on religious symbols in schools because of the threat of violence many young French muslim women and girls felt if they did not don a hijab. If such a menace was to arise here in Canada, using hate crime legislation to target those, who use violence to enforce such a dress code, may be in order.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Liberals Ignore Non-Religious Canadians at their own Peril

It is high time those Liberals who encourage the party to court evangelicals address the non-religious elephant in the living room. When it comes to religion, by far the quickest growing group in absolute terms is non-religious Canadians. 16.2 % of Canadians describe themselves as non-religious in the 2001 census; this represented a 44% increase since 1991 and increase of nearly 1.5 million. According to 2008 stats Canada study by 2005, that number had reached 22% amongst those over 15. There are far more non-religious Canadians than there are evangelicals Canadians and non-religious Canadians are younger. Your average non-religious person is 31. Your average baptist, for example, is 39. Furthermore, the extent of such a trend is masked by the fact that the overwhelming majority of Quebecers still identify as being Catholic even as Church attendance in Quebec continues to plummet there and 43% of Canadians did not attend a place of worship in the last year. Add to all of this the fact that growth of non -religious voters is concentrated in the very areas in which the Liberals stand a chance of winning some seats. For instance, 42% of Vancouverites describe themselves as non-religious.

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada Study of evangelical voting patterns is full of Holes

According to The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada between 1996 and 2008 evangelical Canadians left the Liberals in favour of the NDP and Conservatives. Their conclusions are based on 5 different polls. One taken in 1996, one in 2003, one in 2004, an exit poll in 2006, and finally one taken 2008.

Their conclusions are problematic. One look at the 1996 is enough to cast doubt on their conclusions.

Among decided voters, the 1996 poll showed the Liberals leading the Reform party 45.7% to 24.7 in Western Canada and 58.8 to 8.2 in Ontario. The poll also had the Liberals ahead of the Bloc 49.2 to 33.8 in Quebec and ahead of the PCs 60 to 21.3 in Atlantic Canada. A Year later, this is how things broke down in the 1997 election. Reform finished with 42.8% in Western Canada and 19.1% in Ontario. The Liberals meanwhile captured 27.7% of popular vote in Western Canada and 49.5% in Ontario. The Liberals captured 36.7% of the vote of the popular vote in Quebec and 34% in Atlantic Canada.

There is no basis for considering this poll. It is an obvious outlier.

The 2003 poll is better, but still support for Canadian Alliance looks to be massively understated.

The 2003 poll put the Liberals at 53.3% in Ontario and the Canadian Alliance at 10%. The same poll had the Liberals leading the Canadian Alliance 34.8 to 24.7% in Western Canada.

In the 2000 election the Canadian Alliance took 49.6% of the popular vote in Western Canada and 23.6% of the vote in Ontario During the 2004 election, the Conservatives took 31.5 of the vote in Ontario and 45.3% in Western Canada.

Still based on the other polls, there is evidence of evangelical Canadians having left the Liberals for the Conservatives in slightly greater numbers than the rest of the population in Ontario between 2004 and 2006 and that this trend increased much more so between 2006 and 2008. In the whole of Canada, the Liberal evangelical vote collapsed in 2008.

What there is not evidence for that the evangelical voters left the Liberals for the NDP. Sure, between 2006 and 2008 there does appear movement from the Liberals to the NDP in Ontario However, this is not matched elsewhere and seems to have more to do with NDP taking northern Ontario away from the Liberals. Indeed, 2008 the evangelicals in Western Canada left the NDP in far greater numbers than they did the Liberals. Furthermore, that poll seems to have understated Liberal and Conservative support; it put the Liberals at 28.2 and they finsished with 33.8; and it put the Conservatives at 35.3% and they finished with 39.2%.

The contention of the authors that evangelicals left the Liberals because they felt hard done by is simply not supported by the evidence. Even the notion that evangleical voters left the Liberals because of SSM is problemtic albeit plausible. Only 25% of evangelical voters listed "moral issues" as determining how they voted and this included both SSM and the sponorship scandal. Based strictly on the numbers one would have to say that Green Shift drove more evangelicals away than SSM ever did.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The political consquences of Means tested Social policy and making early childhood education Pay off Politically

Under Martin and Chretien the Liberals abandoned universality in favor of means tested programs. This pleased Stephen Harper. "Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy…These achievements are due in part to the Reform Party" Dion continued in this vein and today Michael Igantieff also does. By turning every social program on offer into a form of welfare, the ability of the Liberals to offer anything other than tax cuts is very limited. It goes without saying that means tested social programs do not win elections; the populace is not going to get excited about paying for a service that only a small percentage of the public can use. Without returning to the concept of the universality the Liberals are destined to become virtually indistinguishable from the Conservatives on all but social issues and Ignatieff seems hell bent on changing that.

Of course, the one exception to such a dispiriting turn is the Liberals early childhood proposal. However, even here there are major problems. First and foremost, it is unclear as to what the Liberals are offering. The goal of the program was ostensibly to work with the provinces to set up an early childhood education program for children under 6. However, to the average voter this amounted to little more than a vague promise to provide more daycare -- which the Liberals said early childhood education was not --- at sometime in the future; they could not figure out what this would mean for their lives. To add insult to injury, Liberals willingness to consider different deals for different provinces has muddied things all the more.

If the Liberals reintroduce such a program in the future, they need to present it in a form in which voters can understand. This is what they should do. They should promise to provide all day preschool and kindergarten for every 4 and 5 year old in Canada.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fall unfolding like it always does

Its fall, and like every fall the leaves are turning colour and beginning to fall and Conservatives are beating the Liberals like circus monkeys. It is true; the Conservatives do not have much front end talent when compared to past Liberal governments and we are all the worse for it. However, one thing the Conservatives have that the Liberals do not is back room boys with a clue. Given all summer to prepare, the Liberals brass gave us Michael in the woods. Michael in the Woods! Scott Reid and David Herle were rightly ridiculed for what happened to the Liberals in 2004 and 2006. However, when lined up against who has come since they look like geniuses.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Euthanasia and Afghanistan: Ignatieff must pass the test

The Ignatieff faces two upcoming litmus tests. The first one is Quebec's euthanasia debate; Quebec doctors want it. If the Liberals are so thick as to not throw their weight behind Quebec doctors, they deserve to loose the next election. The second is Afghanistan. The Conservatives promised to extend the Afghanistan mission past 2011. This is an opportunity. Spending a billions on mission that is doomed to failure and greatly increases the likelihood that Canada will be attacked by terrorists home grown or otherwise. However, given Igantieff's track record, I would not hold my breath.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Conservative's Baby Bonus

Give the Tories credit. In marked contrast to the Liberal's early childhood education plan, the Tory baby bonus is truly universal, and did not take years to implement. Once upon a time the Liberals believed in universality. However, beyond half heartedly defending universal social programs they introduced in the 1960s, the Liberals idea of universality these days is pandering to all groups in equal measure. Ever since Martin and Chretein the Liberals have supported nothing but means tested social programs and an early childhood education plan that was so inadequately funded it hardly deserved to be called universal. The Liberals are kidding themselves if they think they can win elections by promising benefits to one group of people and having us all pay for that program. Given a choice between Tory tax cuts and paying for other people's social services, the portion of the populace that is not eligible --pretty much everybody --- will take the offer of a Tory tax cuts every time. Furthermore, it is also infinitely easier to explain a universal social program --- everybody gets X -- then it is explaining a means tested policy.

Liberals, Conservatives and Law and Order Issues

The political advantage the Conservatives get from justice issues is not from their being major differences between the major parties, but from other factors. One such factor is the very subject being debated. As Tom Flanagan crowed after the 2006 election, there are certain issues that favour the Conservatives and the economy is one. No matter how successful the Liberals were in balancing the books and creating jobs, Conservative research suggested that when it came to economics people trusted the Conservatives more than they did the Liberals. It not much of leap to suggest the same is true for crime. After all, to presume that the public has a working knowledge of each party's justice policies is giving the public way too much credit; the public trades in stereotypes and they are always going to believe that Conservatives are tougher. This is especially so now. The Conservatives are in power and while 'tougher' crime measures grab headlines, Liberal support for those measures does not. To add insult to injury even if the Liberals were able to convince Canadians that they support all Conservative measures, and I very much doubt that they can, the Conservatives have argued and will continue to argue that Liberals had ability to introduce such policies when they were in power and failed to do so. In sum, sentencing measures, are a loosing proposition for the Liberals and following in line will not stop the bleeding. The public discourse is not evidence based.

So what can the Liberals do when it comes to justice issues. They have to change the debate to one about sentencing to one based on the law itself. This always ignites debate; for in marked contrast to sentencing issues, were the public's profound ignorance and dogmatism crowds out any debate, the public loves discussing such issues. Doing so also changes the political dynamics; the Liberals go from looking weak to looking edgy and the Conservatives go from looking tough to looking regressive. Trudeau's Omnibus bill was edgy; SSM was edgy. Of course this presupposes that there are issues that the Liberals can throw their support behind and not get killed politically. Luckily for the Liberals there are two. The first one is euthanasia and the if the Liberals are so thick as to not throw their weight behind Quebec doctors, they deserve to loose the next election. This one is a no brainier. The other one is an issue I have been harping on for years and that is the legalization of marijuana.

Now whenever I have suggested such a position before I have been greeted by a scores of Liberals suggesting that decrimalization and not legalization is the way to go. My answer as always been the same. There is no political benefit to merely decriminalizing marijuana; among other things, it is just not that edgy and it does not break open the libertarian social conservative divide. Furthermore, the Liberals really need to take a stand. They can not continue to straddle both sides of political divide. When it comes to marijuana for example their position on possession has been pretty lax since Chretein quipped that he would have a joint in one hand and the money for his fine in other. At the same time, they have been ever more supportive of tougher penalties for drug trafficking . To say that such stances are mutually inconsistent would be an understatement. How can consuming a joint be no worse than speeding and something virtually every Liberal leader can laugh about but passing one worthy of a year in jail?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Liberals Can No Longer stay the Course

There is no evidence that the Conservatives are going to impode. Indeed, far from it. All the evidence suggests that the Conservative numbers have returned to where they have been for almost 4 years now, i.e., around 36 to 37 percent. The Liberal spring numbers appear now as fleeting and shallow as the Montreal convention numbers. Furthermore, outside of Quebec, there no evidence that the Liberals are making any inroads. This is in marked contrast to what the Conservatives are doing; the Conservatives seem to be consolidating some of the gains they made in Ontario, the Maritimes and in BC at the Liberals expense during Dion's reign.

Needless to say, there also no evidence that Michael Igantieff has the ability to charm. He is not charismatic; he is not funny; and he does not wow people with his looks. Strip away the intellectual and there is nothing there to sell. Those liberal bloggers that trumpeted the Michael in the woods ads as being positive ought of be ashamed of themselves. The ad was predictably bad -- although no worse than the horrible "positive" ads Dion ran in the last election. If the Liberals are going to continue to run away from substantive issues, I at least hope the Liberal brass comes to realize that when it comes to ads "we can do better" we can go negative. Now to be fair, the party is not the only one falling down on selling the leader; Igantieff's attempt to appear rooted by intertwining his family's personal history with that of country's bores both the public and pundits to tears.

So were do the Liberals go from here. They have to reverse course. So far the Liberal approach has been to move closer to the Conservatives on the big picture issues (e.g., Afghanistan, taxes and crime) well all the well hyping minor differences and shrilly complaining about minor scandals. Such an approach is doomed to failure. Your average Canadian knows next to nothing about politics, especially about political minutiae, and furthermore does not care that it does not know, . If the Liberals continue down this road, the Liberals will be no better off than they are now. A bored and apathetic public will return a Conservative minority to power or worse give Harper a majority.

The Liberals have to run towards controversial social issues and not away from them. Ignatieff has spent too much time in the US. The party has deluded itself into believing that issues such as same same marriage and the gun registry has hurt the party in Ontario, especially with evangalgical voters. There is very little to recommend such a blinkered view. 1) The combined Alliance and PC vote in 2000 was much higher than the total Conservative vote in 2004. Ontario residents did not migrate to the NDP because they were miffed about SSM and the gun registry implemented some 6 years before. 2) To pretend that Liberal Onatrio totals between 1993 and 2000 were normal is laughable. The country voted regionally like never before and this included Ontario. 3) While there is no evidence to suggest that SSM cost the Liberals a single seat west of Ontario, there is evidence to believe that such policies helped the Liberals in the Lowermainland. The Liberals went up there in 2004 and 2006 despite a marked downturn in national numbers. 4) Quebec is the one part of Canada the Liberals have change to grow and social liberalism seems the best means of putting the Conservatives on the run there and attracting Quebec voters.

Above all else, the Liberals need to again embrace universality. That means embracing the social democratic success of the 1960s, the core of the party's brand and promising to build on them. It also means abandoning, as much as possible, the degenerite liberalism assocaited with collective rights, affirmative action and asymmetrical federalism.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ignatieff and crew: Too boring not too Toronto

Word has it that Ignatieff and crew are too 416 heavy. The pundits are wrong. No self respecting urbanite would identify with party that is about as edgy as Mr Rogers. The Liberals are the party of the status quo and their vote for us we are safe and boring mantra appeals to no one.

The Liberals have forgotten their roots. Sure they talk about Lester Pearson, Trudeau, Health care and the Canadian pension plan. However, the party has abandoned the principle of universality and it is hard see this group of insipid accountants introducing anything half as bold as Trudeau's Omnibus bill. If they ever want regain the interest of Canadians, they better give both a hard look.