Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I Wonder

If the Liberals keep giving the green light to Tory policies, when will the merger talks between the two parties begin? There are many advantages to such a merger as it would consolidate the centre right in this country once and for all (and would give them for the time being, a solid majority of popular support). It would also lead to an end to confusion for "progressive" voters, come election day.

Update:Jason Cherniak appears to agree that Liberals and Conservatives are moving closer together:
The Liberal answer? My suggestion would be to say that most of the tax cuts are the implementation of Liberal policy. We disagree with the GST cut, but minority Parliaments are about compromise. How can you vote against something where you agree with 95% of it? We should vote for it, take ownership and make it clear to the media that this is a combined effort by Liberals and Conservatives to lower taxes.

Meanwhile, we can hit the NDP and BQ over the head with the fact that they oppose tax cuts if they choose to take that route.

Update 2: Neil Reynolds is positively giddy at the dawning of the "Dion Flaherty Accord".
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Credit Card Conservatism

Well, the Tories are over the moon (although some are cautious) with the latest round of tax cuts. However, there was not a hint of cutting expenditures in this mini budget. Even a socialist like me knows you can only offer services if you have the money to do so. If the economy takes a sudden downturn and the money coming in is suddenly reduced, we could very easily be back into deficit spending and very quickly. So, enjoy the good times while you can (and the 10 or so extra bucks on your pay stub), because the Tories just took out our credit card and spent the wad. The don't-tax-but-spend party is in charge now. Meanwhile, Toronto is broke, the roads are falling apart and there still aren't any daycare spaces.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Paul Wells Ponders

This afternoon:
Back in the mid-'00s, we used to enjoy a chuckle whenever the Paul Martin crew would come up with some extraordinarily contrived sideshow in an attempt to bury an embarrassing headline. But even that PMO would never have thought it could get away with announcing tax cuts on 24 hours' notice, simply to bury an auditor general's report.

I used to work at a newspaper that, if it spotted such a transparent dodge -- at least from a Liberal government -- would have buried the tax cut on Page 4 and monstered the AG report. But there is no newspaper left in Canada with that kind of self-confidence, is there?

Is there?

Well, let's see which is higher up on the web sites, the tax cuts or the Auditor General's Report? It looks like the MSM has swallowed the bait. The denizens of the PMO must be popping the corks right about now. BTW, it looks like the Star gets the prize for having the most obscure placement of the AG story.
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Poor Dion

Can't even get a date on his own. He is the "friend with the nice personality" who tags along because he has nowhere else to go. His candidate from Central Nova is making him look like a bigger loser than usual.

Update: Memo to Politque Vert. The NDP tried to work with the last Liberal government, but the Liberals weren't interested.
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Required Reading

Today's editorial from the Globe and Mail, about the government's (with an eager assist from the opposition) attempt to scapegoat Muslim women, who wear veils to the polling station.
This is a bill meant to appeal to a sentiment expressed vociferously in Quebec that Muslim women should not be voting from behind face veils. On the surface, the sentiment seems reasonable; a country should not weaken the integrity of the vote by allowing voters to conceal themselves. But look at the facts. Voters are not required to show photo identification, largely because many people do not have photo ID. Two pieces of government-issued ID approved by the Chief Electoral Officer are enough. Alternatively, a voter with ID may vouch for another voter without. Beyond all that, a voter may mail in her vote from abroad. Without photo ID, showing a face proves what? That the bearer has a face?
It is a good editorial but it misses the point. Making veiled women show their faces (even though this has never, ever been reported as a problem) proves who has the power in this society and who is second class.

Update: Others have started to come to the same conclusion. This whole farce is designed to do two things: Chase after the white sheet vote in Quebec (and other rustic areas of the country) and show Muslims who's boss. This is totally, totally disgusting and Layton should be standing on his head to oppose it. The fact that so far he is not, is a sad reflection of how visions of power (or at least official opposition status) is clouding the judgment of the NDP brain trust.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Canada And Iran Not That Different

When it comes to arms sales transparency. Canada has not released any arms sales export figures since 2002 and has not tracked sales to the U.S. since the 1940's (and has no figures at all on third party sales from that location).
The prolonged silence by Ottawa has now become an international embarrassment, said Ken Epps of Project Ploughshares, an arms control watchdog and peace group founded by the Canadian Council of Churches.

Epps cited a recent report by the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based monitoring group, which dropped Canada's transparency rating on arms controls to just above that of Iran.

"Canada's rating is 11 on the scale out of 20 this year and the rating for Iran is 10.5," Epps said. "What does that say to you?"
It tells me there are some folks in our government who would be embarrassed if the information was made public.
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Daycare, Smaycare

If this doesn't get Greg Staples back to blogging and away from Facebook, I don't know what will. The Tories have stonewalled the release of the study done on the feasibility of company run daycare knowing, as everyone else in the world, that business isn't interested in providing daycare to workers. So, the sad fact is, the need for daycare spaces keeps growing. Who needs that kind of embarrassment? There is no mystery why the Tories have a problem appealing to women. You just have to follow the policies.
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Friday, October 26, 2007

Veiled Threats

Before anyone goes off on the government's anti-Muslim veil legislation remember, none of the parties will do a damn thing to stop this legislation. They are all guilty of pandering to the lunatic fringe, while chasing public opinion (and seats) in Quebec. Every last damn one of them.

Update: Jack Layton asks a good question.
NDP Leader Jack Layton suggested that the proposed changes were not the most pressing issue, arguing that there were a million people who were unable to even get on the voting list.

“The so-called problem of the veils is not even a question raised by the Muslim community,” Layton said. “So why didn’t the government choose to settle a big problem that leaves a large number of people in rural communities and the North, for example, off of the (electoral) list, without the possibility of voting?”
Maybe it's because Steve is feeling emboldened since he knows when push comes to shove, you will roll over and let him off the hook.

Update 2: This is the least surprising story of the day. This insanity is going to end badly. Mark my words. This is just so wrong that there will be many unintended and unpleasant consequences. Too bad the opposition (all of you and especially Jack Layton) have sold their political souls for a shot at a few more seats. It isn't too late for you to make a choice for freedom, but feeble protests about the "need" for such a law, won't cut it.
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The Manley Commission

Is doing exactly what it was designed to do --- act as a human shield against questions about the mission.
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The Sounds Of Silence

Thanks to the Galloping Beaver, I was directed to this article. The first two paragraphs tell the story:
There is no military solution to the struggle against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, according to Britain's most senior armed forces leader.

Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup said: "There is a common misperception that the issues in Afghanistan, and indeed elsewhere around the world, can be dealt with by military means. That's a false perception."
That sounds familiar. I wonder, as does the Galloping Beaver, why our media is ignoring what our allies are saying about the prospects for a military solution.
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Setting Layton's Record Straight

As a public service for Liberal Bloggers who are feeling hard done by because Jack Layton is picking on them, I present a couple of quotes from the man himself.

Jack Layton in 2005:
"This idea of coming to Ottawa only to sit on your hands when the most important vote comes up, why doesn't Mr. Harper have the courage to stand up and simply vote for the budget because that's what he's doing in effect," NDP Leader Jack Layton said. The Toronto Star 03-10-2005
Jack Layton yesterday:
"They decry the Harper agenda but then they sat out the vote and effectively gave him the majority government they say would be a bad thing," NDP Leader Jack Layton said last night.

"They've made it very clear that they're not willing to stand up for their principles." Toronto Star today
Seems pretty consistent to me. You're welcome.
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It Just Goes To Show You

That stupid and ridiculous "arguments" are not confined to the good people at NOMMP. This country is in trouble my friends, big trouble. The inmates are starting to take over the asylum.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Arctic Snow Job

Harper thinks he is on to a winner by emphasizing Canada's Arctic sovereignty. However, some bright spark is bound to point out at some point, that the only reason the issue is becoming more urgent is because the government is doing nothing to stop climate change.
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Though I Disagree With Kinsella

About the almost everything, I agree this is a fair question:
Memorandum to Messrs. Harper, Dion and Layton (and all those who rushed to declare an ethnic "nation" within Canada):

What say you now?
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Spine Of Jello

Brave Mr. Dion pledged to block any "anti-environmental" legislation. Just one problem, I heard on Question Period this afternoon that the Tories are going to be handling the environment by regulation, rather than by legislation in order to avoid bad publicity. Nice thought though. Kind of like the guy who is going to "kick some ass", after the fight is over.
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Harper's Little Buddy

Wow, when even the Liberals' house organ begins jumping on this meme's bandwagon, you know Dion is screwed. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are introducing legislation designed to play up the idea that the Liberals are divided (which they are) and that Dion is so weak he can't even keep his caucus in line (which he can't). Layton will have a field day when (not if) the Liberals bend over and let the Tories get away with all kinds of attacks on our rights. Liberals across the land are warming up their "But, but, but" responses.
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Liberal/Democrat SOP

Paul Krugman writes in today's NY Times:
Right now all the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination are running on strongly progressive platforms — especially on health care. But there remain real concerns about what they would actually do in office.

Here’s an example of the sort of thing that makes you wonder: yesterday ABC News reported on its Web site that the Clinton campaign is holding a “Rural Americans for Hillary” lunch and campaign briefing — at the offices of the Troutman Sanders Public Affairs Group, which lobbies for the agribusiness and biotech giant Monsanto. You don’t have to be a Naderite to feel uncomfortable about the implied closeness.

I’d put it this way: many progressives, myself included, hope that the next president will be another F.D.R. But we worry that he or she will turn out to be another Grover Cleveland instead — better-intentioned and much more competent than the current occupant of the White House, but too dependent on lobbyists’ money to seriously confront the excesses of our new Gilded Age.
This sounds like something that could be written about the Liberal Party. The whole run left/rule right is the Liberals' stock in trade. Progressives here need to seriously think about that reality. Fortunately unlike our U.S. counterparts, we don't have to put up with Liberal BS. We have an alternative.
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Voting Under Examination

They will be talking about the decline in voting, on the Agenda tonight. I predict that the guests will go round in circles ending in a "Well, what can you do?" moment. I suspect they will accuse the people of having a lack of civil consciousness and of being too selfish to vote. The establishment doesn't want to open up the box marked, "Gamed Electoral System" and so reform will be raised and dismissed very quickly (The odds of someone on the panel saying "Well New Zealand has MMP and their voter turn out is going down" while neglecting to mention turnouts are still 30 points higher than in Ontario, are 100%). I also will bet that mandatory voting will get at least some play in the discussion. I may still watch, but there will be nothing new there.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Can We Drop The Pretense?

Harper wants an election and he wants it badly (not that there's anything wrong with that). Mr. Clever is even stripping opposition amendments to the crime legislation in order to get them to vote against it (then going whining to the electorate that the meanies hate victims of crime). Man, if I wasn't addicted to politics, I would really be turned off by this crap.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Throne Speech Reaction

It was very, very, boring. There was nothing really new in it either. Overall, I would give it a "meh". The only section that got a rise out of me at all was climate change. I agree with Elizabeth May (believe it or not) on this one. The government is probably right that we can't get to our 2012 targets. But, and this is a huge but, the 2012 targets are just the beginning of the process in any case. We should still try to get as close as we can to the targets under Kyoto and take any penalty we get for not reaching the goal. The important thing is the process. Harper is making it clear that not only do we not accept the goals of Kyoto, but also the process.

After hearing the government's position, I think I have a grasp of where they want to take us. Harper agrees that climate change is a problem but will not commit Canada to any hard targets until every last one of China, India and the U.S. also commit. Harper is willing to talk until the end of the world, if necessary, to see this happen (or not). It is the Liberal plan, but on steroids.

Update:When I wrote I agreed with Elizabeth May, I meant her analysis, not her conclusion. Unlike May, I think it is worth bringing the government down over. I think her convoluted logic leading to "no election" over Kyoto comes more from political debts owed to the Liberal Party than anything else.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When You Act Like A Sneak

People suspect your motives. Paul Wells on last week's press conference at the National Press Theatre.
Stephen Harper has now been caught scoping out at least two venues to pursue his media-control neurosis: the former US embassy, and a Sparks Street shoe shop. (See Kady's blog for more.) That's a fairly hefty number of millions of your tax dollars to spend because he's got a thing about scrums. I now believe he held that presser in the National Press Theatre last week because he knew the access-to-information request from the Star had gone through and he was about to look like a very odd fellow for empire-building on your dime when there was already a perfectly good venue in place. So, finally caught, he used the perfectly good venue for the first time. Funny: he used to say the Liberals only do the right thing when caught.
Harper used to condemn the government for holding too many votes of confidence too, but times change I guess.
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Tory Astroturf

Well this is a big surprise. Not content with the Blogging Tories, the cult of personality known as the Stephen Harper Conservative Party has launched its own Astroturf website. Now you don't have to go searching for Tory talking points on the web, you can just tune into any radio program, or read the letters to the editor. How convenient for us all.
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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vote Splitting Federally

Chantal Hebert may be right about vote splitting, but so be it. If we get Tory "majorities" for the next 3 or 4 elections, too bad, so sad. The Liberals' first call will be for a merger. The NDP and Greens should give them the finger. The Liberals are not a left wing party (and neither are the Greens) in any case. Eventually, maybe after sixteen or so years of Tory "majorities", I suspect even the Star will be calling for reform. Funny that, eh?
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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Credit Where It Is Due

To the Globe And Mail for including this in their post-election editorial:
Mr. McGuinty, meanwhile, did not wait long to offer his assessment of Ontario's referendum on electoral reform. Voters' rejection of a proposed system of mixed-member proportional representation (MMP), he appeared to suggest, meant they had definitively endorsed the current first-past-the-post system. "No, we've had that debate," he said Thursday when asked if there would be further referendums on electoral reform. "I'm glad and proud we've presented an option to Ontario voters. They've rejected it."

But Ontarians were not given a fair chance to reform the system; nor was there the full "debate" that Mr. McGuinty claims. Rather, a flawed model was put forward in a referendum that was barely publicized until the campaign's final days. By claiming the result settled the matter once and for all, Mr. McGuinty lends credence to claims that the referendum was intended only to reinforce the status quo.
It certainly does. I will contend until the day I die that McGuinty could not sell electoral reform to his own party and so set up the process to fail. If Liberals think this is over, they can forget about it. This is just the beginning.
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More Thoughts About Harper And Manley

So, as I said yesterday, the press is eating up the Manley appointment with a spoon. To me, this is just Stephen Harper needing to be seen to be clever. He is a showboat who wants everyone to tell him how brilliant he is. The press may be impressed with this maneuver but I'm not. All it tells me, and I suspect everyone else is, Harper has made up his mind we are staying in Afghanistan and is trying to embarrass Stephan Dion into going along. Cynical? Yes. Clever? Only by Ottawa press gallery standards where it is all about "the game".

Out here in the boondocks, it is just so much BS. If Harper wants us to stay in Afghanistan, he should just hold a real debate in Parliament and let the chips fall where they may. If he has a brilliant argument, maybe he will even win. But, he won't chance that. In the world of Ottawa (and Canadian) politics, democracy is only a good thing when the game is fixed and the outcome is assured.
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Friday, October 12, 2007

Thank You Andrew Coyne

A public thank you to Andrew Coyne. He was the only pundit in Ontario who did not let his partisan leanings cloud his judgment over MMP. I feel better now after reading his latest. Reform will triumph in the end!
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Enough Despair

Let's dance.

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Harper Is Taking A Page Out Of McGuinty's Book

By appointing John Manley (the bluest of blue Liberals) to head a group tasked with giving recommendations on our presence in Afghanistan, Harper is pulling a McGuinty. He is pushing a problem down the road and every time he is asked about it either in parliament or on the campaign trail, he can say "Well, let's wait and see what the commission says". The press of course, will eat this up, because with them, it's not about whether an action is justifiable, only whether it is "politically smart".
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And Just To Emphasize The Point

The Star's editorial board adds its two cents:
Supporters of proportional representation have had a fair chance to make their case. They should accept the will of the vast majority of voters and resist the urge to demand another costly referendum.
Now let's never hear any more talk of this ever again, you stupid peasants.

I predict this will be the line from the Family Compact and its faithful hounds in the press for the rest of my life. I hope you all like first past the post, because the Family sure does and that's all that matters. All this talk of democracy is too wasteful an exercise. Leave it to us, we know what's best.

P.S. When the voter turnout gets below 50%, I predict the Family will react in two ways. First, it will scold the people for their laziness. Second, it will move to tinker with the system without any mandate whatsoever (mandatory voting is my guess, but it will be something that does not threaten its position in any way).

Update: Note to Murray Campbell, we are not walking away from the electoral process, we are being pushed. You try being told for thirty years that your opinion doesn't matter and then come and talk to me. As you yourself wrote:
Political scientists have reasoned that people will only vote if they believe the time and effort necessary are outweighed by a feeling of civic duty mixed with a belief that they can affect the election outcome and improve their society.
Well, I and 47% of Ontarians no longer have the "belief that they can affect the election outcome and improve their society". Soon it will be a majority and not some fake majority created by an anachronistic voting system, but the real thing.
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A Message From The Family Compact

Brought to you by Ian Urquhart. I will summarize:
Those who voted "no" in the referendum based on the premise that you could get something better than MMP, forget it. Thank you for your support, but reform is now officially dead. Any attempt to revive the issue will be crushed by the Family and its loyal messengers in the press. Now go back to your little lives and let your betters run the province. Once again thank you for your support. Suckers.
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Coyne Gets It Right

In his column today. He points his finger at one of the underlying messages of the no side in this campaign -- vote for MMP and you will get Muslim extremists calling the shots.
Much the same hysteria surfaced in the accompanying referendum on proportional representation: the first thing those opposed were likely to call to mind was, what if a Muslim party started up?

Never mind that the entire Muslim population of Ontario, at 3% of the total, would have to vote for the Muslim party -- and only one -- to get over the 3% threshold the proposal entailed. This was Ontario's version of Quebec's "reasonable accommodation" hearings, and Ontarians, it was clear, were not in a mood to be particularly reasonable.
The only thing Coyne leaves out is such thinking assumes all Muslims are extremists and will vote as a block for an extremist party.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What A Night

Well that was a bit of a disaster, wasn't it? Needless to say, that was my last vote in an Ontario election. I will still vote federally, since the parties get money for the votes they collect (thanks Jean!), but I won't vote again provincially as long as we keep FPTP. I live in a Tory riding and I have better things to do with my time.

Andrew Coyne is right.

Update:The voter turnout was about 50% in this election. Good luck convincing people to show up to the next one.
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Yippee I Got To Vote (Now If It Only Meant Something)

I just got back from voting. The polling clerks had a real ritual they had to go through this time. It was like kabuki without the white makeup. I had to show my registration card, my driver's license, confirm my address without looking at the registration card, mark my ballots and then reconfirm my name when I gave the ballot over to the clerk before putting in the box. It seemed quite overboard if you ask me and it lent an air of mistrust to what had previously been a lighthearted, greet the neighbors kind of event. I suspect all this new concern for security will do is suppress the vote even more. Speaking of which, I talked to one of the other clerks and she said the turnout was down from 2004. It will be interesting to see the final numbers.
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Back From The Darkness, Screaming

I have been off line all day due to technical difficulties. Just as well. Anywho, one thing I heard this morning, really made me scream. CBC had a piece on the morning news about the voters' ignorance about MMP. All was well until the reporter said, no joke, that the new system will involve 39 "appointed" MPPs. Who can blame the voters for being ignorant, when reporters for our national network are that misinformed about an issue on which they are supposed to be clarifying? That level of stupidity makes baby Jesus cry.
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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Not Unexpected News

The Ontario PC party has blitzed the province with an anti-MMP email. As one pro-MMP person is quoted as saying:
"MMP is great for party bosses? If it was, how come they're fighting it so hard?"
If the backroom boys of the Conservatives and Liberals hate this new system this much, it must be good.
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Two Signs MMP Is Doing Better Than The Elites Would Like

1. The Star has attacked it again this morning.

2. Strategic Counsel has it defeated.
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Why You Should Vote For MMP

Tomorrow is election day in Ontario. Once again the people of Ontario will be faced with the prospect of a "majority" government elected with a minority of the popular vote. It will be an unappealing resulting from an unappealing electoral system. If we pull together, this will be the last election created by the vagaries of the First Past The Post System. There is, as some of you know, an alternative system under examination during this election. In the next few paragraphs, I will outline my reasons for supporting that alternative, MMP.

First, what is wrong with the status quo? The First Past The Post system was developed to do one thing and that is to create majority government. In theory, when there are two parties running in an election, in a geographically compact area, FPTP is a perfectly adequate system. It measures the will of the population quite accurately. The party with the most votes will, in the vast majority of cases, have a majority in popular vote. If however, you introduce more parties into the mix, the FPTP system continues to deliver a majority of seats for the government, without a majority of the popular vote province wide. This has been the case for Ontario, for most of the last 70 years.

Majority government without majority support is a recipe for alienation, apathy and cynicism. If, election after election, people see that more people voted against the government than for it, they will rightly conclude that their vote does not matter.

FPTP distorts the popular will by rewarding parties that are regionally based, rather than appealing to the province as a whole. That's so because FPTP reliance solely on ridings rewards concentrations of support in a small area. Pity the Dipper in Oxford, the Liberal in Welland, the Conservative in downtown Toronto. They will go to the polls (if they bother), knowing absolutely that their vote is useless and will have no bearing in the outcome of the election.

Worse still are the supporters of the Greens and NDP, who are told constantly that not only will their vote not matter overall, but that by voting their conscience, they risk "helping to elect" Conservatives through vote splitting. This leads to the distinctly Canadian phenomenon of "hold your nose" to vote for another party to stop someone else.

How will MMP correct these defects? MMP is designed for a multiparty system. It more accurately reflects the voting intentions of the population. It keeps local representation in tact by keeping the riding system, but also uses a party vote to gage political opinion, province wide.

I hear a lot of talk by the no side about the party lists. This is in my opinion a red herring. It is effective however because it projects the worst aspects of FPTP (fixed local nominations, insta-members, appointed candidates) on to the lists. All four of the main parties have stated publicly that they will use democratic processes to create lists. If one of them is lying then no one will vote for their lists in the next election and they will suffer as a result.

The lists will, if the experience of the other jurisdictions using this system are duplicated here, give parties representation from all parts of the province. Those parties without riding representation in the North for example, will use the lists, if they are smart, to elect members from those areas of weakness, to prove they are pan provincial parties.

MMP is superior to FPTP in that it breaks up the monopoly of regionally based parties and rewards parties who are able to garner support from all parts of the province. The party vote will be taken at a province wide level (that is the second vote on all ballots from now on). This will encourage parties to think of the whole province when creating policy, rather than handing out plums solely to its regional base.

MMP in other jurisdictions has created much more stable government than FPTP. Germany has had few federal elections than Canada since WWII. This seems counter intuitive give the fact that no party gets a majority government in the German system without a majority of the popular vote. Why then have they had fewer elections? The difference is in the nature of minority government in FPTP and MMP.

In FPTP, a change of a few points in the polls can mean huge changes in the seat outcome. In MMP, you get what your poll numbers say you will get and so a shift from 35% to 40% is no incentive to pull the plug on parliament and run for that "majority". This means more stability.

A word about the most insidious argument put forward by the no side. That is the "tail wagging the dog" argument. This goes that it is ok to ignore the voters of the smaller parties because if we let their voices be heard in the legislature, they will somehow come to dominate. Again, you have to look at the histories of Germany and New Zealand to see that this is just not the case. The major party in the coalition governments still sets the agenda in the government. But, and this is crucial, it cannot run roughshod over the opinion of the other parties in the coalition. It has to be remembered that the bigger party may be bigger but it is not a majority. It will have to craft its policies in such a way to get majority support in the province. Never again will a "majority" government be able to ram through bills, unless it is supported by the representatives of a majority of the population. It will lead to a more thoughtful legislature.

The FPTP system is an anachronism whose time has come and gone. Tomorrow, we have it in our hands to usher in a new era of pan-Ontario politics. Don't be afraid. We may not create paradise on earth, but Ontario will still be better for the change.
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The Most Bizarre Analogy I Have Ever Seen

I found this paragraph in today's Globe:
We also regard the arguments about “wasted votes” under the FPTP system as overblown. To take an illustration from another context, the Stanley Cup goes to the team that wins a majority of the contests played in a series, regardless of the total number of goals scored by each team. Similarly, there is nothing inherently unfair in asking the party that wins a majority of electoral contests provincewide to form the government.
I realize Patrick Monahan and Finn Poschmann are academics, but do they know nothing about hockey? No hockey game I have ever seen has had 5 teams on the ice all trying to score goals at the same time. Nor are hockey players trying to represent issues on behalf of the people of their province (other than "My team is better than your team and so we are better than you.").
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Dear Toronto Star

While it is true that FPTP can deliver strong, stable governments that work, I wouldn't call it particularly democratic (your first paragraph essentially proves that point) . If you are just looking for strong and stable government, look to China. If you want to add democracy to that list, you will have to reform our electoral system with MMP.
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Monday, October 08, 2007

A Word Of Caution

For those of you out there who are saying "Let's wait for STV". You should read the following paragraph carefully. It will become the template for opposition to that plan, if and when it ever emerges here.
The “citizens' assembly” that arrived at the proposed new model came much closer to getting it right than a similar panel did in British Columbia before that province's last election. There, the alternative on offer was an absurdly convoluted preferential voting system in which British Columbians would have required a political-science degree to figure out how to cast their ballot – and which, more important, would have severely weakened the party system such that effective and accountable government would have been impossible.
The high priests of the status quo will not like STV any better than MMP. The arguments will change but the underlying fear, smear and misrepresentation will remain. The truth is, the elites in this province (and their minions in the corporate press) like the way things are now and do not want any meaningful change to the the system. Why should they? They have all of the power now and by God, they are not going to share it without a fight. Don't be lulled by their reassurances that if you help them defeat MMP, they will turn around and give you something else.
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Saturday, October 06, 2007

For Dan

Life is short, but it is also beautiful. I am with you, big guy.
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Deconstructing The Case Against MMP

The Record (which is owned by the Liberal house organ, Toronto Star), came out against MMP this morning. Let's take a look at their editorial and examine the reasons behind their decision.
There's only one good reason to dump the way Ontario voters have elected provincial politicians for over a century. There's only one good reason to gamble on a new system of selecting the government that leads and rules this great province. That reason is democracy -- the government of the people.
So far, so good, that is exactly the reason we should dump FPTP. It creates false majorities out of regionally concentrated minority voting blocks. Such a system is undemocratic because it ignores the wishes of the majority of voters province wide.
If the electoral reform being offered in next Wednesday's provincewide referendum can strengthen democracy, if it can transfer into the hands of the people of Ontario more political power, more authority over their lives and their land, then they should embrace it. But if the change being proffered fails this most important test, if it does not demonstrably bolster the health of Ontario democracy, if, in fact, it threatens to vitiate that democracy by granting more power to political cliques, then the proposed electoral reform should be roundly rejected.
Here is where I begin to get off the train. The editorialist is implying we have a democracy to "vitiate", when in fact we live in a four year dictatorship of the minority, punctuated by elections. Also, it is impossible to grant more power to "political cliques", as all power in this province is already concentrated in the office of the premier. Any reform that would cause power to flow away from that office, would be an improvement. Any system that would cause the ruling party to negotiate with the other parties to get legislation passed would be a step forward in our democracy.
So how does the system being proposed -- mixed-member proportional -- stack up? Ontario voters will, as is their right, make up their own minds. But for our part, we at The Record have concluded that democracy would suffer badly under a mixed-member proportional system because such a system would quickly and inevitably cede political power to political parties and their unelected elites, at the ongoing expense of ordinary people.
I will leave alone the idea that we live in a democracy, but the second point that power will flow to parties needs examining. In our present system parties control the political process. Voting no will not change that fact. Political parties are not in and of themselves bad things (as this editorial implies). Political parties are the collective expression of voters with differing ideas and nothing more. Furthermore, they are not going away any time soon. Is the editorialist suggesting that in his vision of reform, there will be no parties? An interesting thought, but I doubt it.
If Ontarians choose mixed-member proportional, the number of members of the provincial legislature (MPPs) elected to represent geographic ridings will fall, from the current number of 107 down to 90. Meanwhile, there will be a new class of MPPs -- 39 members who are not directly elected by voters but are, instead, appointed by political parties to the enlarged, 129-seat legislature.
Ah, the big lie of the no side finally appears. In the first place, the list MPPs will be elected province wide in the general election and will in no way be appointed. In the second, all four of the main parties have declared that their lists (which by law will have to be published before elections) will be created by transparent and democratic processes.
The laudable goal of the mixed-member proportional system is to have a legislature that matches as closely as possible how citizens actually vote. And it is true that under our current first-past-the-post electoral system, political parties that capture far less than half of the popular vote typically win elections.
At last he says that the goal of MMP is laudable and he admits that the present system is undemocratic. Does this change his position? Does he now reconsider his rejection of reform now that he has had an epiphany about the undemocratic nature of our present system? Not on your life. In fact, that is last you will hear about the ridiculousness of FPTP. Why? Well, you would have to ask the editorialist, but the answer to me is self-evident. The present system cannot stand up to even the most cursory of analysis and so he concluded that the best line of defense is a good offense.
Critics of the status quo say it lets a minority of voters enthrone a majority government that rules with total power. And that smacks of unfairness. Advocates of a mixed-member proportional system praise it as more fair because the number of seats a party gets in the legislature reflects as closely as possible the number of party votes it receives. There would be two votes on the ballot, remember, one for a local representative, one for a party.
We don't just "say" that a minority of voters enshrine a majority government", that is the reality. Again, the fairness of MMP is not just a claim, but a fact. Unlike FPTP, every vote will be used to create a legislature reflective of the wishes of the voters.
The 103 Ontarians who joined the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform and proposed adopting this mixed-member proportional system deserve applause for their hard work, thoughtfulness and civic responsibility. However, our respect for them does not diminish our strong opposition to what they recommend.
This is what we call a pat on the head/slap in the face. Afterall, what do 103 of your neighbours who spent 8 months studying electoral reform know, compared to an editorialist who spent a long half hour reading the no mmp website? Silly Citizens Assembly, the elites of Ontario know what's best for you. Thanks for your service now go away and let them run the province like they always have and always will.
A mixed-member proportional system would hurt democracy because it would reduce the number of directly elected MPPs by more than 15 per cent. There would be significantly fewer ridings in Ontario and they would be bigger. Riding MPPs would be responsible for thousands of more constituents. It is easy to see how this would impede the direct access of constituents to their representative as well as their ability to influence that representative.
MMP will not reduce anything. All MPP's will be directly elected by the voters. The number of ridings will go down but if the experience of New Zealand is any guide, the 39 list MPP's will be drawn from all areas of the province and give voters even more options for interacting with their government. The bottom line is we will have more representation rather than less under MMP.
Then, there is the troubling matter of the 39 non-riding or at-large MPPs. Directly elected by no one, they would be directly accountable to no one -- at least to no one outside of the party cadre that put them on a list. True, the parties would offer some explanation for their slates of potential appointees. But it would be difficult in the extreme for voters to examine the many names on a slate for an ever increasing number of political parties.
This is the "democracy is too hard" argument. Firstly, all of the parties have now agreed that their lists will be created democratically. Second, the editorialist is suggesting that if people have to put any effort into voting, it just isn't worth the bother. And he is supposed to be defending democracy? Give me a break.
It is questionable how much legitimate campaigning such potential appointees would do in future elections. But what would that matter? Once installed in the legislature, they would be beyond the reproach or touch of voters. Future legislatures would be home to two classes of MPPs, one the traditional riding representative, the other, in all but name, a senator. Spare us this.
These MPP's will, by and large be running in ridings as well as on lists. They will campaign just as hard as anyone else. Again, using New Zealand as a guide, list MP's are not seen as second class MP's, in fact they tend to take on issues of wide importance to the country at large. Finally, when was the last time you got to vote for a senator? There is no analogy to be found here. If the Record wants to talk about an elected senate, fine, but the list MPPs will be elected province wide and are in no way appointed.
In the past 22 years, each of the three major Ontario parties has managed to win one or more elections, govern and then be evaluated by voters under the first-past-the-post system. Governments have been stable and often accomplished much, but they have also, out of necessity, been forced to heed the wishes of the people.
The majority of voters wanted nothing to do with Bob Rae. We got 5 years of unopposed rule from him anyway. The majority wanted nothing to do with the "Common Sense Revolution" and all of the upheaval that went with it. We got ten years of that rammed down our throats. Finally, the majority wanted nothing to do with Dalton McGuinty, but we are on the verge of having him rule over us like a king for 4 more years. Hey that sure is some system we have here, where the majority don't want the government they have, but have to endure it anyway. What do we call it anyway, because it sure isn't democracy.
To contemplate mixed-member proportional system is to consider a future of instability, of fragmented and only partially accountable legislatures fumbling their way under the leadership of perpetual minority governments. It is also a future in which political parties, including party hacks, hangers-on and failed politicians, would gain in influence and power as the already limited authority of ordinary voters wanes.
This is the "pulling it out of the air" portion of the editorial. Is New Zealand unstable? Is Germany unstable? No, but who cares because the editorialist isn't worried about reality, but fantasy. If the editorialist is worried about party hacks having influence, he should be going after the present system, which is completely dominated by those hacks. And when he says that voters have limited authority in the present system, he means they get to cast votes every four years knowing that the will of the majority will be ignored and distorted by a system of voting created before his great grandfather was born. To contemplate retaining a system is to look forward to the continuation of undemocratic rule by the self-satisfied elites in the Premier's office and their allies among the corporate press. Sure its not as messy as democracy, but let's not pretend it is democratic either.

To be sure, the way Ontario elects MPPs today has flaws. It could be improved and perhaps, after this election, Ontarians should continue searching for a better system. But mixed-member proportional is, in the final analysis, not a better system. On Oct. 11, please, say no to this proposed reform.
Finally, the biggest of the big lies in this referendum. Vote no and we will get it right next time, they say. Well, I have a prediction for you. If we vote no this time, the next time will not come in our lifetime. The elites in this province will proclaim loudly (especially if McGuinty gets his false majority) that we have tried it and "the people" rejected it and besides it is much too expensive to go through this process again, while there are taxes to cut and other such lofty priorities to prioritize. Why endure another 40 years of undemocratic rule? We have it in our power to seize control from the elites. Let's do it.

Update: Go read the Dawg. He and I are on the same wavelength this morning.

Update: I changed the title of this post because there are some Liberals who are truly trying to change the system.
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Friday, October 05, 2007

Howard Hampton Or Howard Beale?

For the record, Howard Hampton is right. The big parties are arguing about nothing and meanwhile Ontario is going to hell.
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Thursday, October 04, 2007

It's All In How You Look At It

Don Martin looks at Harper and sees a genius. I look at Harper and I see the captain of the math squad bragging that he can kick everyone's ass. Given that when he says "everyone", he means the guy who runs the projector during assemblies, I am not that impressed.

Update: Further to my comment on this posting. Why would the Tories want this to be known? The more they advertise the fact that they are going to put things in the Throne Speech that are unacceptable to the opposition, the more ridiculous their claims of wanting to avoid an election become. Bizarre. It's like a fighter telegraphing his punches.
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Take That, NoMMPers!

All four of the major parties in Ontario have committed to creating their candidates' list using democratic processes. So much for "appointed" MPPs.

Update: And just to top off a pretty good day, Mr. Coyne pipes up with the final installment of his series on electoral reform. Needless to say, it is a must read.
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Does Louise Ervin Know?

I was flipping through the local paper and came across this letter:

Be smart -- vote Liberal


In 2003, the Kitchener-Waterloo riding race was so tight that if four per cent of the Progressive Conservative voters chose Liberal or if 20 per cent of the NDP/Green voters chose Liberal, we would have elected a Liberal MPP.

In the Kitchener-Waterloo riding every vote for NDP/Green is effectively a vote for the Progressive Conservatives. Since the NDP/Green vote is so small, they should vote strategically by voting Liberal.

Since 2003, as an opposition member, Elizabeth Witmer had no voice and no access to the Liberal cabinet -- she was hardly working for us. All recent Ontario government announcements in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding were because of Liberal party decisions and had nothing to do with any influence from our local Progressive Conservative member.

Witmer supports the Progressive Conservative policy to extend school funding to the 90-plus religions in Ontario. Traditional Progressive Conservative voters in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding have a great opportunity to tell Witmer and her party what they really think of this -- by voting Liberal and not Progressive Conservative.

Another reason to vote Liberal in this election is because the Progressive Conservatives are in power in Ottawa.

Voters in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding should prove they're the world's smartest community by electing an MPP who works with the party that will form the government -- the Liberals.

Peter Hughes

I have so many questions it is hard to know where to start. Is this Peter Hughes, this Peter Hughes? I also wonder if he was the "Peter" who pushed this line at last week's all candidates meeting?

Also, I am wondering whether Louise Ervin agrees that "All recent Ontario government announcements in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding were because of Liberal party decisions and had nothing to do with any influence from our local Progressive Conservative member"? Does she buy into the idea that is the job of unelected, local party functionaries of the governing party to make decisions for the government, rather than the elected representatives of the people? Does her campaign support this position?

This kind of patron/client politics is slowly seeping into our electoral system. The idea that we as citizens can only depend on our government if we "back the right horse", is a cancer eating away at our democracy. That both the provincial Liberals and the Federal Tories are both pushing this nonsense means, the rot has spread far and wide.

Update: Yet another instance of threats of government retaliation for failing to vote the "right way" -- this time in Nova Scotia. This is becoming a trend.
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