Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conservatives big by election winners

The Liberals will not hold onto Winnipeg North. Parties do not win a seat by 40 points in one general election and fail to win it in the next general election. The NDP will take Winnipeg North in the next election.

Still, winning Winnipeg North was quite an accomplishment and Liberals should pat themselves on the back. For the first time in the post Martin era they did something right. That is the good news.

On the flip side is that if the Winnipeg North victory is if this is evidence of an down turn in the NDP fortunes, the Liberals are in big trouble. An NDP collapse in the next election all but guarantees a Conservative majority. Igantieff should be careful what he wishes for. If that NDP collapse, British Columbia Southern Interior, Nanaimo Cowichan, New Westmister Coquitlam, Sault Ste Marie, Skeena Bulkley Valley and Esquimalt Juan de Fuca will all go blue next election. People in these ridings do not shift from right to left and back again. They shift from one populist party or candidate to another. A weakened NDP will also mean that most of the following will also go blue: Burnaby Douglas, Victoria, Edmonton Strathcona, Elmwood Trascona, Western Artic, Welland.

Just as bad, the Liberals won Winnipeg North by playing the crime card. This may have work in few ridings were crime is major issue and NDP are strong and Conservatives weak, but it is bound to fail in virtually every other instance. The Conservatives own crime as an issue and rather than come up with an effective response the Liberals have chosen to tow the Conservative line yet again.

Of course not only did the Conservatives get confirmation that their get tough on crime stance is a political winner in Manitoba they also made major inroads in Ontario. Liberals can spin it however they want. The Conservatives are slowly reducing the Liberals to rump around Toronto Center. Toronto is looking more and more like the Dunkirk pocket everyday. With any luck Obama will send a flotilla to evacuate the besieged. The notion that the Liberals secured a moral victory by limiting Fantino to just under 50% of the vote is absurd. The so called pundits who thought that Fantino would magically win by more simply do not know their craft. The magnitude of the Conservatives victory, while not as impressive as what the Liberals were able to do in Winnipeg North, can not be understated. The Conservatives took 35% of the vote in 2008 and 50% this time around. Even more impressive is that virtually the same number of people cast the votes in favour of the Conservatives this time around as last.

Lamoureux's victory is an Aberration: Conservatives on Verge of Majority

The Conservatives are on the cusp of a majority. They have 145 seats as it is, more money than the other parties combined, they are better organized than the other parties, they dominant the political agenda, and finally they control the public purse. Kingston and the Islands, Mississauga South, Ajax—Pickering, Vancouver South, Esquimalt Juan de fuca, Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, Malpeque, Brampton—Springdale, Welland, Brampton West, Edmonton Strathcona are all within their reach and it is easy to see the Conservatives taking a few more 905 seats that just a few years ago looked like save Liberal seats.

As for the Liberals, Kevin Lamoureux's victory was an aberration. Lamoureux won by promising to be tough on crime. In other words, he won by promising to be a Conservative in riding that would never vote for a real Conservative. People in virtually every other riding have no such hang up and Conservatives own crime as an issue. For many Canadians, the Liberals are like old friend that they no longer see much of any more or have much in common with and so give little thought to. The Liberals are short on cash, volunteers and it goes without saying ideas. The jig is up. The Liberals are no longer able to get by on nostalgia and regional divisions. While Ignatieff speaks glowingly of Pearson, the Canada Health Act and CPP, voters recongize the attempted bait-and-switch know that when the Liberals speak of "social justice" they do not mean a commitment to the truly popular notion of universality but rather a commitment to means tested social programs, affirmative action, asymmetrical federalism, pay equity, the intellectual abortion that is collective rights and other policies that neither interest the middle class or have their support. Take away the Liberals commitment to "social justice" and Harper's populace facade and their is little difference between the two parties.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An "effective" Senate is an Undemocratic Intellectual Abortion

Constitutionally senators have all kinds of power and every once in a blue moon the Senate has stalled major pieces of legislation (e.g., free trade and the GST). However the aforementioned instances of stalling are so rare they are the exceptions that prove just how "ineffective" the senate truly is. Moreover, no senate I can think of has pursued a legislative agenda of its own accord; opposing legislation is one thing; purposing legislation is quite another. The reason the senate is not an "effective" body is that senators are not elected and as such lack legitimacy. Furthermore, senators are members of legitimate federal political parties and the parties that they belong to are loath to have their unelected members exercise real authority least their actions undermine the party. Finally, the fact that it is the ruling federal party and not, say, provincial governments that appoint senators defines a clear pecking order, with the Senate answerable to the House.

Harper, of course, wants to reform the Senate. And Harper being Harper has decided to kill two birds with one stone. He had Conservative senators vote down a climate change bill passed by the House that he did not like as a means of forcing other parties on side. Being unable to reform the Senate in one fell swoop, Harper has proposed electing Senators piece meal. Under the Conservative plan, new senators would be elected and would be limited to serving out a 8 year term. The elephant in the living room is that if the senate's lack of effective powers flows from the senate's lack of legitimacy, then electing senators might provide the senate with a degree of legitimacy it currently does not hold. One problem with proceeding thusly is that current senators are free to serve until the age of 75. As a result, Harper's actions could either transform an unelected political body with no real power into a largely unelected political body with real political power or commit Canadians to the farcical and expensive act of electing people to office who hold no real power. Always content to play the Tin Man and Lion to Conservatives scarecrow, the Liberals remain largely mum on the subject.

Setting aside problems associated with implementation, is the cause of democracy even served by reforming the Senate? Well, the Reformers always held that the regions needed more say and an “equal” “effective” and “elected” senate is the best way of achieving a balance between population centers in Eastern Canada and the rest of us. However, such a conception, and for that matter an "effective" version of the current senate, does not stand up to scrutiny. The problem is fivefold.

First such an argument rests on a false contrast; seats in the House of Commons are supposed to be assigned on basis of population, but in actuality that is not the case. Consider the 905. There are currently 4 plus million living in the 905 and there are currently 32 seats for an average of just over 127,000 people per riding. There are 6 ridings with over a 140,000 people in the 905, Bramalea - Gore - Malton (152,698) Brampton West (170,422) Halton (151,943), Mississauga - Erindale (143,361) Oak Ridges - Markham (169,642) and Vaughan (154,206). By contrast there are 4.5 million people in Sask, Man, NWT, Nuv, Yuk, PEI, NS, NFLD, and NB and there are 62 seats for an average of 72,000 people per riding. Moreover, there is but one riding in the 9, Selkirk Interlake (90,807), with over 90,000 people. Given current growth trends, there will be more people in the 905 than the aforementioned provinces and territories by 2011. Given population growth, Harper would have to give Ontario alone another 70 seats to make things half way equal.

Second, the people living in Canada’s less populated provinces have a mechanism to assure that regional concerns are addressed; it is called provincial jurisdiction and provincial representation. By the very nature of living in a province with a small population, the 135,851 people in PEI have plenty of ways of addressing regional concerns that are not available to, for example, the 136 470 people living in Mississauga - Brampton South.

The third reason is that while one person one vote is bedrock principle of any democracy, one province one senate vote is something else entirely. People, not provinces, deserve equal representation. A province is no more or less than the people that make up that province. Giving the 135,851 in PEI the power to determine everything under provincial jurisdiction, provincial representation and 4 MPs well all the while giving the 170, 422 residents of Brampton West one MP is bad enough as it is. Piling on and giving the 135,851 people in PEI the same number of “effective” senators, as per the American Triple E Senate model, as 12,160,282 Ontarians is beyond stupid and grossly undemocratic. Equally silly is having one "effective" Senator for every 72,997 New Brunswick residents (10 senators in total) versus one Senator for every 685, 581 BC residents (6 senators in total). And that is what the current configuration gives us.

Four, as Benjamin Franklin put it, having two equally matched houses makes as much sense as tying two equally matched horses to either end of a buggy and having them both pull. Having two houses is not only a lobbyists dream, it is a recipe for political gridlock and pork barrel politics. The only thing that would be worse is if one needed 60% of the votes in the senate to overcome a filibuster.

Five, leaving aside the fact that no province has a second chamber, most having abolished them long ago, and that there are numerous examples of unicameral nation states (e.g., New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Sweden, Iceland, Liechtenstein, South Korea and Portugal), we already have a de facto unicameral state as it is -- just ask the supporters of a Triple E senate. After all, one can not argue on the one hand that the current senate is undemocratic and so contributes to the "democratic deficit" and on the other hand argue that the senate is “ineffective”. A body that adds nothing to the genuinely "effective" process can not take away anything either.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Coyne gets it wrong

Stephen Harper’s Tories can run $56-billion deficits, raise spending to all-time record levels, and grease every Conservative riding with layers of pork; they can abandon Afghanistan, coddle Quebec, and adopt the NDP approach to foreign investment; and still there exists in people’s minds another Conservative party, somewhere, for whom these policies are anathema.


Yes the Conservatives are guilty of pork barrel politics. Yes the Conservatives are guilty of codding Quebec. However, Harper is no Mulroney and everything else Coyne he says is completely ridiculous.

As a percentage of GDP, government spending is neither high in comparison to other nations nor is it historically high by Canadian standards. Furthermore, the whole basis of Coyne's silly thesis is the fact that he uses the mid 90s as his measuring stick and never mentions that Martin cut government spending to levels not seen since the 1950s and the fact that he likes to focus on absolute spending and not spending relevant to GDP. Of course, Coyne never laments the fact that military spending is growing faster than any other area and is up 56% since 1999. Apparently in Coyne's mind, spending on programs that actually benefit Canadians is waste of money but engaging in expensive foreign wars that do not benefit Canadians in any way is our moral duty. Incidentally, a rise in military spending is something Coyne should lament. In marked contrast to health car, a rise in military spending in absolute terms is not needed to keep up with a rising population.

As for the notion that Canada has "abandoned" Afghanistan, never mind the missions complete futility and cost or the fact that our being there increases the chances that we will be attacked by terrorists home grown (e.g., Toronto 18) or otherwise (e.g., Al Qaeda claiming that we are a target because of our presence in Afghanistan) this is pretty strange assertion to make given that Canada has been there 9 years and that Canada has just signed up for 3 more years without Parliament ever been consulted.

Finally, the notion that Canada should act like a financially desperate country whose markets have been pried open by the IMF and world bank is just plain stupid.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mulroney Lives

"Hockey Canada has authorized the creation of Team Quebec to host France, Italy and Switzerland in the proposed Quebec Cup next August in the provincial capital."


The treasonous fuck or fucks who oked this should be fired.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Liberals are not poised to Win an election: a rethink is needed

There is no chance whatsoever that the Liberals would win an election.

Over the course of the 40 years the Liberal fortunes have risen and fallen according to the ability to capture at least 70% of the seats in either Quebec or Ontario. For a majority the Liberals have needed to capture at least 80% of the seats in either of those two provinces. The Liberals are not competitive enough in the Western Canada for that calculus to change.

Canada is no longer divided against itself and so long as this holds true this is not a party in need of tinkering. It is a party that needs to be blown up.

One of the main stumbling blocks is that the Liberals and the pundits have never fully absorbed what happened to level of support in Western Canada following the 1974 election. Some of blamed the NEP and others have even claimed the gun registry played a part. The latter claim is ridiculous. The gun registry had no impact the Liberals share of the popular vote or their seat totals. As for the former, it was the fact that the Liberal vote collapsed in Western Canada in 1979 that paved the way for the NEP politically and not the other way around. The NEP was introduced after the 1980 election. The Liberals took 1 seat in the three most western provinces in 1979 election and 0 in 1980.

The source of the collapse was that the more emphasis Trudeau placed on individual rights and a commitment to linguistic equality the more the rest of the country, particularly the West, resented the Liberals inability to put a stop to bill 178 and and 101 and its willingness to make special accommodations for Quebec. Quebec's Official Language Act spelled doom for the Liberals in Western Canada from the mid 70s until collapse of the Progressive Conservatives in 1993. Ironically, it was the Mulroney's willingness to go even further in pandering to Quebec, particularly the Charlottetown Accord, that gave the Liberals some life again.

Of course, the Liberals response to Mulroney taking Quebec in 1984 and 1988 and subsequent success of the Bloc was abandon any thought of national programs and a national vision. The death of universality was the budget crisis of the 1990s and the notion that Quebec is special. This has rendered the Liberals forever impotent in Western Canada. Pay equity, collective rights, affirmative action, means tested social programs and other hall marks of modern liberalism have never had the same appeal in Western Canada as elswhere in the country and that is saying something. Outside of Quebec, such hallmarks are generally and rightly poorly regarded. What did hold the Liberals in good stead was when the NDP and Liberals were jointly pursuing universal social programs or basking in their passage. The success of one party generally meant the success of the other. Until such time as the Liberals recommit to universality they have no chance of gaining traction in the western provinces.