Tag Archives: canada

Bitter Sweet Election Results

The NDP won over 100 seats. Elizabeth May is the first Green party MP ever elected in Canada. The Bloc Quebecois have lost official party status.

All great news, but what a shitty election result. I’m not sure I can handle four years of a Conservative majority government.

What happened to the Liberal vote in Ontario? Why is Manitoba and Saskatchewan so damn Conservative?

If the Liberals could have held more of their Ontario seats we could have had an NDP-Liberal-Green coalition government in charge of Canada. How awesome would that have been? A government that would have made electoral reform and the environment a priority. Instead, I weep for the future of Canada. Maybe we need to give students the right to vote, and take it away from old people – Student Vote gave a much better result.

I’m worried Canada is heading to a 2-party system, a consequence of the first-past-the-post electoral system. I prefer the NDP to the Liberals, but I think we need both parties, and I don’t want the see them merge. I want real electoral reform. A single-transferable-vote system where no vote is wasted, strategic voting is unnecessary, and vote splitting doesn’t lead to Conservative majority governments.

Time to Ride the Orange Wave

Who said this election was boring? The political map in Canada is about to see the most radical changes in my life time. I’ve been a life-long NDP supporter, especially with Jack Layton at the helm, but I never thought I’d see an NDP surge wash across the country.

Multiple polls are showing the NDP surpassing the Liberals for 2nd place nationwide. More surprising, they’ve surpassed the Bloc in Quebec. The Bloc has been a dominant force in Quebec since 1993 – always winning at least 50% of the seats. But its bleeding votes to the NDP. Could this be the end of the separatist movement? A death at the hands of the NDP? To start to contemplate what the NDP’s rise in Quebec means, read this Pundits Guide article.

And it’s not just Bloc supporters that are moving to the NDP. The NDP is taking votes from the Conservatives in the Prairies, the Liberals in BC, everyone in Atlantic Canada, and the Greens all over the country. The NDP are the preferred 2nd choice of supporters from every party, including the Conservatives. And even with the recent surge in support, the NDP has the most room to grow. Check out these numbers from the most recent Ekos poll – 24.7% choose the NDP as their first choice, and 25% as their second.

Voters 1st and 2nd Choice
Source Ekos poll April 21, 2011 (pdf)

I’m sure more than a few progressives are concerned about vote splitting, now that the NDP and Liberals are essentially tied nationally. However, the NDP rise is eating more into the Conservative and Bloc seat totals then the Liberals. This projection has the NDP at 60 seats, the Liberals up to 82, with the Conservatives and Bloc both losing seats, down to 134 and 32.

Exciting stuff. Get out and vote! Together we can!
Continue reading Time to Ride the Orange Wave

Bold Election Prediction

There are still 2 weeks left in the Federal Election campaign, and anything can happen, but I’m ready to make a bold prediction.

On May 2, as the ballots are counted across Canada, the twitterverse will light up with comments on the surprising election results. The pundits will wonder how they misread public sentiment, the pollsters will quietly muse that their numbers were completely wrong, and everyone will point to a single reason – they were wrong to assume young people wouldn’t vote.

On May 2, I predict voter turnout will rise for the first time in my voting lifetime, largely because young people will show up in higher numbers then they have before. Media will go nuts and write many stupid articles about the “Facebook Generation” and the effect of social media on politics. Politicians will be forced to recognize the political power of young people and create laws that finally deal with the issues important to them. And Canada will get a parliament that isn’t so damn Conservative.

How likely is this to happen? Well it happened last year in the Calgary Mayoral election, when young people came out in large numbers to elect Naheed Nenshi, who ran a campaign largely driven by social media. And the threat of young people actually voting is scary enough to Conservative supporters that they freaked out when 700 University of Guelph students showed up to vote early. In response to Rick Mercer’s Vote plea, groups of students across the country have been organizing Vote Mobs, complete with catchy youtube videos. There will even be a Superhero Vote Mob in Vancouver on April 22.

So, maybe there is a chance for change. It’s time to show the country we have a voice. Please get out and vote!

Continue reading Bold Election Prediction

If the Election was an Episode of Star Trek

What character would each leader be?

Stephen Harper is clearly an android. He has the same emotional range and rigid hair piece as Data. He’s just better at lying. “If you prick me, do I not… leak?”

Michael Ignatieff is a dead-ringer for Sarek, Spock’s father. “It would be illogical for a Vulcan to show anger! It’d be illogical! illogical! illogical! illogic…!”

Jack Layton - Star Trek Convention
Jack Layton has gone where no leader has gone before, a Star Trek convention. He’s definitely channelling Captain Jean-Luc Picard in that uniform. “Make it so.”
Image from scott3eh.

Gilles Duceppe is like lot like Q – mischievous, slightly malevolent, but strangely amusing. “All good things must come to an end…”

Any ideas on what character Elizabeth May would be?

Debunked: Reasons for scrapping the mandatory long-form census

I’ve heard a lot of desperate Conservative supporters try to muster arguments on why scrapping the mandatory long-form census is a good idea, even as opposition mounts. I thought it would be fun to debunk a few of the arguments, because most of them are simply ridiculous.

  1. Scrapping the long-form census will save taxpayers millions – Actually it will cost an extra $30 million dollars to operate the optional long-form census because it will be sent to 1/3 of Canadians instead of 1/5.
  2. Most European nations, including those bastions of socialism in Scandinavia, are scrapping their census – Yes, in fact they are. They’re scrapping it because they already have detailed registers about you’re personal life, your home, and where you work. Is that really what you want?
  3. An optional census can be just as accurate as a mandatory one. Polling companies produce lots of reports with voluntary surveys. – Polling companies are constantly struggling to account for bias in their models, and it’s not easy. The main way to account for bias is to track the demographic information of your respondents and then weight the results based on data from Statistics Canada’s census. But now that the census data has bias in it, pollsters will be screwed. Compound bias will really mess things up.
  4. If you want the data, you should pay to collect it yourself – This is Tony Clement’s most recent argument. It’s not that the Conservatives don’t realize the value of having good data. They keep a giant voter database with lots of private information on you and me. They just think businesses, organizations, and local governments should pay to collect it themselves. First it would be a huge waste to have every business and organization pay to have the same data collected. Second, the government is still collecting the data (at an extra cost of $30 million), it’s just crap data now and I’m not sure how anyone could get better data because any voluntary survey will be plagued with the problems noted above – mainly compound bias.
  5. The questions on the long-form census are an invasion of my privacy – This is the only valid argument I’ve heard, but it is still pretty weak. You can read the long-form census here. It’s pretty dry stuff. Facebook and Google know more about me than Statistics Canada does, and they don’t have near the privacy scrutiny and regulations placed on them that Statistics Canada does.

All of this leaves me to believe there is a different reason why the Conservatives want to scrap the mandatory long-forum census – so the government can make up statistics at will. Sound far-fetched? Too much like a Stephen Colbert skit?

Just this week, the Conservatives announced that we are going to spend $9-billion to build more jails, even though statistics indicate crime rates are dropping across the country.

Although the official crime rate is going down, a senior Harper government minister says there is reason to disbelieve the statistics and spend billions of dollars on new prisons: an “alarming” increase in unreported crime.

First, they “disbelieve” the statistics, as if faith is necessary to understand them. Second, even if there was an “increase in unreported crime” (a great made up statistic if I ever heard one), why are we spending $9-billion on new jails? If the crimes is unreported, I’m guessing no one is being convicted.

Olympics: Out with a Bang

What an amazing last day to the Olympics. The hockey game was a real thriller. We watched the game in Yaletown, and after it ended the city just went nuts. We wandered down to Granville and Robson where the mob was congregating. It was a real zoo. I’ve never seen so many maple leafs and giddy Canadians. When we made it to Granville and Robson, the crowd was so think you couldn’t walk anymore. You just got pushed along, completely at the mercy of the crowd. It was slightly frightening, and the group I was with had to escape to find some breathing room.

Granville and Robson  Basking in Victory  Welcome to Canada  Maple Leaf Forever

Happy Canada Day; Time for a New Tax

Canada Day was the last official day of my 2-week vacation. I spent the morning doing laundry and cleaning up after the Scandinavia trip. Dan has been gone for a week, so most of our plants are dead. I tried nursing them back to life, but I think all of our herbs are dead except the rosemary and the chives.

The afternoon was spent enjoying the beautiful weather here in Vancouver. I spent some time at Kits Beach, enjoying the sun and watching all the beautiful people. Then I biked down to Granville Island to check out the official festivities. It was jam-packed with people. It looks like a lot of people biked since I couldn’t find anywhere to lock up my bike. There was also a huge line-up of cars trying to get on the island. I’m glad to see the new carbon tax in BC hasn’t changed anyone’s dumb driving habits. I never understood why anyone would try to drive onto Granville Island on Canada Day, even when gas was cheap. It’s always jam packed with people and parking is impossible to find.

Canada Day at Kits Beach  Canada Day Suntan  Canada Day Basketball  Line-up of Dumb Cars

Speaking of the carbon tax, July 1 was the first day it came into effect, and it has been the topic of much conversation, especially in the news and in blogs. Here’s my opinion.

I think the carbon tax is a good idea for a number of reasons:

  • It puts a price on polluting.
  • It discourages people from driving.
  • It has shifted the climate change debate from the science to solutions.
  • It financially rewards people like me who don’t own a car.

That said, I think it will be largely ineffective at reducing carbon-based emissions in BC. Why?

  • Gas prices have naturally risen from $1.10/litre one year ago to $1.47 today (the gas tax has pushed that up to $1.50). And yet people aren’t abandoning their cars.
  • They’re not abandoning their cars because of a lack of transit options. Translink knows there is a latent demand for transit in Vancouver – “Every time TransLink adds new buses and SkyTrain cars, Hardie said, they fill up with passengers”.
  • And yet their isn’t funding to buy more buses. The revenue from the gas tax goes directly to reducing other taxes. If even some of it went to expanding public transit, it would have a noticeable impact. Instead, most people will use the tax savings to offset the higher gas bill.
  • Consumers are driven by habit and controlled by large advertising budgets. Convincing people not to drive is not an easy sell. Kind of like convincing people not to buy bottled water. That should be an easy sell since bottled water costs $2-$3/litre and tap water costs $0.0005/litre, and yet it’s not.

It’s interesting to see how the political parties are spinning this issue. The Liberals (right-wing party here in BC) are responsible for the gas tax, so are trying to sell it to the public. They have 3 main talking points:

  • “2.4 cents/litre is insignificant, you won’t even notice it.”
  • “It’s revenue neutral, you’ll get the money back on your income taxes.”
  • “It will help the environment because it will change people’s behaviour and discourage driving.”

I think the first 2 are rather contradictory with the last point. If it’s insignificant and will be offset with other tax savings, how is it going to change behaviour? It hasn’t even altered the behaviour of the government that is implementing it. The Liberals are still intent on pouring billions of dollars into highways expansion instead of transit infrastructure.

The Liberals are in a tough position here, because a lot of people are rather pissed about the gas tax. Most non-environmentalists and suburbanites are Liberal supporters and many wonder if a gas tax is prudent when prices are already going through the roof.

The NDP has tried to capitalize on the angst with an “Axe the Tax” campaign. It’s blatant political opportunism, since the NDP has supported a carbon tax in the past and still kind of supports one (their exact position is tough to nail down). Enough Canadian governments have been defeated because of new taxes, so I guess they see an opportunity. Kind of like the Liberals who swept to power in 1993 by promising to axe the GST, and then keeping it.

Ideally, I would like to see the carbon tax kept, but some of the revenue diverted into green programs – capital funding for public transit, more buses, and green energy (like solar and wind).