"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mmmmmm, brains...
Yooha! News - Speuters Photo

Ned Flanders MP part 2
Recursivity: Local Bigot Headed for Ottawa

Properly diagnosed at last

Get well soon Michelle!

(Sometime Google just throws you a frickin' bone.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ned Flanders MP
“There's a particular reason why Jesus called men only. It's not that women aren't co-participators. It's because Jesus knew women would naturally follow. Men, on the other hand, had to be called.”
- Conservative MP David Sweet
former President & CEO of Promise Keepers Canada (though he'd rather you didn't know about that)

Who's really running the country?
The Galloping Beaver: The Calgary School - The Voices In Harper's Head

The greatest political divide of our time
and probably the greatest political story ever told

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

post election posts IV- this time its personal
Looking for a leader

The Tories, as I have mentioned earlier, have at least a one year window to do just about anything they want while the Liberals reorganize and pick a new leader.

A number of names are being batted around (see this Wikipedia page for a list with linked bios) but at this point I'd say that former maritime premiers Frank McKenna and Brian Tobin would probably be the frontrunners, with newly-elected high profile Toronto MP and noted intellectual Michael Ignatieff and former cabinent minister and Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden also in the running.

I think Tobin would make a better PM than McKenna and his Capt. Canada routine during the Turbot War certainly won't hurt his chances.

Bob Rae's name is being bandied around as is Alan Rock's, but don't count on seeing either one of them toss their hat in the ring. I like Bob Rae and don't think he got a fair shake as Ontario Premier, but fair has nothing to do with it - the Ontario small business community would never vote for him (though a lot of them are tories anyway) and I don't think he'd do very well in Ontario in general, though it would be nice to see a leader who would pull the party back toward the left of center instead of another big-business Liberal like McKenna. And I've been told Rock is enjoying the UN and private life too much to come back - plus he'd have the albatross of the gun registry hung around his neck, which wouldn't do him any good out west.

Deputy PM Cardiac Anne McClellen would be an interesting choice but she'd have to get Western Liberals pretty worked up to get eastern delegates - especially those from Quebec to back her.

Ken Dryden would be an interesting choice and not just for sentimental reasons involving the bleu-blanc-et-rouge - he is a very smart man with a reputation as a major policy wonk who is fairly cool under fire, though a bit phlegmatic and dull as a speaker by most accounts. I hope he decides to run.

Return of the son of post election posts III

Closer than you think

The outcome of this election was close -- the Conservatives won the right to form a government by the smallest margin of seats in Canadian history, so ignore the triumphiant chest-beating yahoos (Galloping Beaver has the take-down) who think this was some kind of landslide that show Canada to be a conservative country and Canadians to be a mob of ignorant, intolerant reactionaries like the people who got elected to form the government.

By muzzling the goofiest of his candidates and pretending to be a centerist, Harper managed to win only a 21 seat plurality. While the Liberals look for a leader and Canadians suffer from election fatigue, he has about a year to do whatever he wants as long as it doesn't look too radical, so watch him baby-step his way to trying to dismantle the social safety net like a good little Straussian neo-con, but don't buy any of this crap about him having any kind of mandate.

Harper may have the largest number of seats, but his party won only 36% of the popular vote to 30% for the Liberals, 17.5% for the NDP, 10.5% for the BQ and about 5% for the Greens. Hardly a landslide, especially when you consider that 9 seats in this election were decided by less than 1% and an amazing 30 seats were decided by less than 2%. (Figures from CBC and CTV election night coverage)

This underscores the illogic of our first past the post system and why we need some kind of supplementary system of proportional representation that would reflect the 49% of voters in riding X whose guy didn't win because somebody's car wouldn't start or because it rained or someone forgot to salt the steps at the seniors' centre or whatever. Isn't our democracy too valuable to be left to such vague influences? As minor as they may seem, should the battle be lost for want of a nail? Proportional representation works well in Japan, New Zealand and a number of European nations and would make parliament better reflect the will of voters.
There are complex systems out there in which voters cast more than one ballot, voting for a local candidate and a national party, but consider what even a very simple system adding 100 seats to Parliament awarded on the basis of percentage of the popular vote nationally would do to the current make up of the House of Commons:

Current seat breakdown / Breakdown with 100 extra proportional seats

Conservative Party of Canada 124 / 160 40% / 39%

Liberal Party of Canada 103 / 133 33% / 32%

Bloc Quebecois 51 / 62 17% / 15%

New Democratic Party 29 / 47 9% / 11%

Green Party of Canada 0 / 5 / 1%

Independents 1 / 0 / 0

Fringe parties 0/ 1 /1%
(drawn by lottery among Communists,
Christian Heritage Party, Marijuana Party,
Natural Law Party, Rhino Party etc etc)

Not such a big difference except for the inclusion of some marginal parties, but that is with proportional seats making up less than a quarter of the seats. Consider what it would look like if they were given half of a 300 seat house. Obviously this would require a redrawing of riding boundaries and awards proportional seats on a national not regional basis, but less imagine what it might look like (all numbers rounded up with directly elected seats apportioned based on percentage of seats currently held):

directly elected proportional seats total
Conservatives 60 54 114
Liberals 49 45 94
Bloc Quebecois 26 16 42
NDP 14 26 40
Green 0 8 8
Independents 1 0 1
Other parties 0 1 1

I would say the second set of total numbers looks more reflective of the national mood - though it still gives the same basic outcome of a Conservative minority, it also gives the NDP a larger role, the bloc a smaller one and a voice to the smaller parties.

Such a system would also encourage support for smaller parties, since to get someone in parliament they would only need to get .3 % of the total votes - about 50,000 out of the nearly 15 million cast to get a seat. In this election that would mean that among minor parties only the Greens would have qualified. Surely if 50,000 Canadians can be persuaded to vote for it, it deserves to be represented in the House of Commons, even if only to be subjected to national ridicule.

See Elections Canada for the full results, see Fair Vote Canada for more info on proportional representation and why it makes sense for Canada

post-election postings part II
Rural vs. Urban split or Red Deer's last ride
First, a few notes before we get to the meat of this latest installment in our post election postings.
It's nice to see some traffic on the site and especially some comments, I guess the relentless blogwhoring is starting to pay off. Just don't make me stand out on the corner in something tight offering to analyse anyone's campaign for $50 -- I think the generally hilarious Scott Feschuk may have that gig sewn up in the near future given the fate of his boss.
To those who misunderstood my previous post and thought I was blaming the NDP for the Tory victory -- I'm not blaming them for this one, (though in a few ridings it did happen)I'm suggesting if their current surge is part of a longer trend of progressives leaving the Liberals for the NDP, they will be to blame for the next Conservative victory. For the record, I like the NDP and consider them to be the conscience of Parliament, but I don't think they will form a government in my lifetime even if Tommy Douglas comes back from the dead to lead them. (Well, okay maybe then - and I for one would welcome our new socialist zombie overlords)

Nope, 'twas not the progressive split that killed the Liberals, 'twas the rural/urban split.

Take a look at the results and you see that the Conservatives won almost all their seats in rural and suburban ridings. The only major cities they got elected in were Calgary and Edmonton, winning every seat in Alberta and 48 of 56 across the praries. Anyone else having a red state-blue state flashback? The Conservatives did not win a single seat in the country's three largest cities and with the exception the aforementioned Texas North urban centres didn't do so well in any large or medium-sized city. The catch is that in the name of regional equality, rural residents have disproportionate representation in the House of Commons. The populations in rural ridings tend to be a bit smaller than in urban ridings. A few minutes looking at riding statistic on CBC indicates that urban ridings run about 110,000 to 120,000 residents, while rural ridings tend to have 100,000 (or less) to 110,000 residents. Urban ridings also have a far larger percentage of single voter households and thus more voters.

A quick look at stats canada and the CBC's information on ridings confirms what I know from living in small Ontario towns for most of the 90s - small towns tend to have fewer immigrants, people tend to be older and less educated on average than in cities and while incomes tend to be lower, people are more likely to own a home than rent. Church tends to be more popular, cultural opportunities more limited etc etc etc. I'm not saying everyone who lives in cities of less than a million is a hick or anything like that, and I've met plenty of urban yahoos, but on the whole rural folks are more likely to fit the profile of a traditional social conservative while urbanites tend to be more likely to fit the progressive template. And yes I know these are sweeping generalizations, but they are statistically supportable, so try to contain your sputting outrage all you rural hippies and citified rednecks.

I spent 8 years covering rural and small town politics for a string of small newspapers. I've been to more committee meetings presided over by hyper-conservative small town tyrants than I care to remember. When small town politicians are Liberal, it is usually in name only. The people who get into politics in small towns tend to be social conservatives who are either professionals or small businessmen (especially real estate developers) who want to make sure "outsiders" don't tell them how to run their town. That isn't to say there aren't good people in rural municipal politics, one can be conservative without being evil, but by and large there are not a lot of progressive people successful in rural politics. The exception that proofs the rule being NDP MPs in mining towns and places with strong union traditions such as Winnepeg.

Now having shown that rural Canada is slightly overrepresented and that rural Canadians tend to be more conservative than liberal, is it any wonder that I can conclude it was the rural vote that put Harper over the top?

The good news is that half of Canadians now live in large cities and the proportion is growing rapidly. A redrawing of electoral boundaries will reflect this in future elections and Mike from Canmore will soon lose some of his clout to Mario from North York and Ngyen from Vancouver.

next up - the election was a lot closer than you think

Post election - Part 1

Why the NDP's win is a loss for progressives.

Looks like the old Chinese curse has come true - Canadian politics are about to get interesting.

A Conservative minority is hardly the apocalypse, but there are some developments in this election, that if they prove to be trends, may be disastrous for the progressive movement and by extention for the country. Among these trends are the rural-urban split, the resignation of of Paul Martin and the lack of a new generation of leaders in the Liberal Party, and the counter-intuitive notion that what is good for the NDP is bad for progressive politics.

First, lets look at the gains made by the NDP.

Canadian lefties will be excited by the fact that the NDP got 50% more seats and boosted its share of the popular vote to 17%, bringing it to 29 seats and dominating in Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, Halifax and Winnepeg, as well as gaining seats in Northern Ontario. Once again, the number of people in Quebec-- socially the most progressive province, or so we are told-- who voted NDP is about the same as the attendance at a Montreal Expos home game. In fact, it could be the same people.

Jack Layton did very well on the campaign trail and now has his wife, Olivia Chow to cover his back in Parliament. The NDP will continue to thrive under his leadership and may even expand their number of seats further in then next election. Layton would like to see the NDP emulate the British Labour party by moving to the center and absorbing all the progressives from the Liberal Party.

Which is the problem, since the Labour party in Britain is now slightly to the right of the American Democrats on many issues and seems to exist, much like the Canadian Liberals, simply to hold onto power as long as possible. When such centerist parties are in power for a long time, you eventually get a populist conservative movement that unseats them and seriously screws things up for people (see: Thatcher, Margaret and Mulroney, Brian) The NDP are a long, long way from ever forming a govenment, but starting with this election, they are splitting the vote sufficiently to allow the Conservatives to waltz into power as long as they keep their nuttier members quiet and don't scare people enough to get them to vote strategically and unite behind one party.

In this sense, Layton is the best friend Harper ever had and the biggest threat to progressive politics in long time. Because he will succeed, as he has in this election, just enough to make sure the Conservatives win instead of the Liberals.

As we've seen with Reagan, Mulroney, Thatcher and Bush Sr. and Jr. when the conservatives win, they move the center to the right for years after they leave office. The Trudeau Liberals and JFK and Carter Democrats were not considered especially left-wing for their day, they were mainstream political movements. Today, the right-wing noise machine would consider them to the left of Fidel Castro. Even if Harper is only in office for a couple of years, the middle of the road is going to veer right, the only question is how far?

Nor is Layton about to become any kind of power broker in the House of Commons. The Liberals could and did bargin with him, but the Conservative will not. To them, he is the ideological enemy even moreso than the Liberals. The Liberals today are very much cut from the same cloth as Joe Clark style red tories - probusiness centerists who don't want to rock the boat too much. Harper can deal with such people without offending his neo-con and social conservative base. He cannot afford to be seen giving anything to the "gawdless soshlusts" and "union zombies" and "ivory tower intellectchuls" of the NDP. To the average Alberta redneck, the NDP is the devil, the Liberals are just "damned easterners."

Layton may have won, but it is Harper who is going to get the prize.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Eve of destruction?
Well, it's all over but the crying, table-pounding and bitter fingerpointing, though given the current poll numbers I suspect we will be doing this all over again with a new cast of characters within a year or two. The Liberals seem to have bounced back over the weekend, at least according to the Jan. 22 SES/CPAC nightly tracking poll which gives us the following:

Conservative Party of Canada: 33
Liberal Party of Canada: 30
New Democratic Party: 22
Bloc Quebecois: 9
Green Party of Canada: 5

Margin of error: 5.3%

This means the Liberals have bounced back, taking support from the Conservatives and the Bloc, and have momentum going into election day, so we may have a horse race yet. I'll be watching the returns come in at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo and then working the night shift at the Ministry of Truth, so if things get slow there could be some blogging done.

Thanks to Cathie from Canada and Man Descending for the linkage - both are great sites. I've been reading and enjoying Cathie's blog for a several monthes, but Man Descending is a new one to me. Also, check out regular reader Baz at Oi! Thump. And have a look here for a great Stephen Harper cartoon.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Learning from the mistakes of others

Given the state of the polls in Canada at the moment, it would appear that Canadian voters, having seen how things have gone south of the border for the last six months, have said to themselves, "enough of the this solid economic development and sane, sensible, progressive social policy - gimme some incompetent bible-thumping yahoos who want to disassemble the government and fast, before its too late for us to get in on all the fun and games in Iraq."

They appear to have decided that because Paul Martin and the Liberals are "arrogant" and the previous Liberal administration probably skimmed some money from the till, they are going to vote for the Bush-Lite Conservatives.

Great idea Canada. Very clever.

Babies and bathwater, amputated noses and spite-worthy faces - pick your similie my fellow Canucks, but the bottom line is that you're making a horrible mistake.

Imagine your adult son is accused of shoplifting. He has an excellent job, takes great care of his wife and your grandchildren and you, gives lavishly to charity, has good taste in music and books, doesn't drink to excess or apparently have any bad habits except for a tendency to be a bit smug and now, he's been accused of shoplifting. So what do you do? Disown him, set fire to his house, your house and shoot every member of the family between the eyes! That will teach the arrogant little pisher!
Because if you vote in that glassy-eyed, regressive reactionary ignoramus that is running the Conservatives, that is what you are doing.

"Don't be ridiculous Rev., you're over reacting," you say "Don't exaggerate. That's a bit over the top, we just want to punish the Liberals a little bit, so we are voting for the opposition, don't have a cow!"
Yeah, well "mooooooo!", I don't think that is hyperbole, not for a minute. Stephen Harper and his merry band of ham-fisted Republican wanna-bes, if given a majority, will destroy the country:

They will stack the Supreme Court with conservative ideologues from among their own ranks.

They will run up a a deficit again.

They will use the notwithstanding clause early and often to ban homosexual marriage and get rid of any kind of legislation banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

They will tear up all the government's previous hard-won
agreements with the First Nations' peoples.

They will bring back capital punishment.

They will repeal the decriminalization of marijuana and bring in more draconian punishments.

They will split up the country by encouraging Quebecois to separate and by encouraging Western seperatism through decentralization.

They will bring religion and especially fundementalist Christianity to the forefront of governing philosophy. (Just what we need, more scum like Ralph Reed)

They will end multiculturalism and divide and rule by playing
on our fears, by playing to their base and pitting native born white Canadians against immigrants and minorities and natives.

They will ban abortion.

They will destroy public education by encouraging
US style voucher systems and standard tests .

They will revive Canadain participation in the U.S.'s completely useless, never-going-to-work missle defense shield

Even if held to a minority government, the Tories' only likely ally is the Bloc Quebecois, whose first condition for backing the government is going to be more powers for Quebec. Harper will give them what they want and then turn around and give the western seperatists a bone of similar size to keep his base in line, Until eventually both Quebec and Alberta will have achieved sovereignty association by increments.

A list of the ten best reasons not to vote for the Tories in the last election is still just as valid today.

On the bright side, when Haper and company trip over their bibles and screw-up sufficient ly to get turfed out, they will be so loathed as to make Brian Mulroney look like a national hero, and the Conservatives will implode once again and be driven into the political wilderness for another generation. By then, the Liberals will have replaced the againg Mr. Dithers with a younger, more charismatic leader (cough Justin Trudeau cough)