Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, January 30, 2006

Two and a Half Men

The good news is that I found time to read Paul Wells' 24,000 word post-mortem on the election campaign in Macleans in its entirety.

The bad news is what this implies:
a) I had to go see a doctor
b) I had to wait over an hour to see the doctor.

I don't know if it is because I didn't like the result of the election, or because I'm not a fan of horse-racy, war-rooming, gaffe-o-meter type coverage, or if it's because I'm not really that interested in getting to know the people behind the politics, or if it's because I already paid so much attention to the campaign, or if it's just that I was expecting too much, but it left me a bit underwhelmed.

Now don't get me wrong, I like the idea of having longer pieces in our magazines, and Wells is a great writer, and there is lots of insight into how the big parties run their campaigns, and it certainly beats the alternative reading material at your doctor's office (especially the rest of Maclean's), but still.

I found I was left with a lot of questions. If the media turned on Martin and the Liberals so much since last election, why did the McGill media study show they were just as hostile to the Liberals last time as they were this time? And was the pro-Conservative, anti-Liberal slant in the media really down to the Conservatives being friendlier to reporters?

If the Liberals' visits to B.C. were so troubled and their Western message ineffective, why was B.C. the only province where they gained in seats?

To what extent was the change in government just a reflection of voters' desire for change rather than evidence of a good Conservative campaign and a bad Liberal campaign?

What about the Bloc's unexpected decline vs. last time?

And who was that mysterious, unnamed party that over 650,00 Canadians made their first choice at the ballot box? On a proportional basis, their vote count would merit 1,080 words in a 24,000 word article recapping the election. Even allowing for the disproportional demands of the big man vs. big man narrative, some minimal coverage might have been expected.

I guess everyone's a critic, and Wells did state up front that in his mind the election was the story of two men, and I don't think I was in the target audience anyway, so my opinion may not count for much, but there you have it - at any rate, it passed the time while I was waiting. And on the plus side, at least it wasn't anything serious.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Monte goes to Cabinet

If you read a fair number of political blogs, you've probably already encountered the Reuters article where Monte Solberg talks about corporate subsidies, but my point is a little different from the one I've seen other bloggers making so far, so bear with me.

For reference, here is the relevant quote from the article:

Export-oriented Canadian companies complain they have been hit hard by a steep appreciation in the Canadian dollar, which is up 30 percent against other major currencies since 2002, helping to wipe out tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

Industrial subsidies, long a point of contention for Canadian right-of-center parties, may be a necessary evil, he added, admitting that the Conservatives were coming round to the idea that firms sometimes needed subsidies.

"It would be better to have a worldwide agreement (against industrial subsidies). But because some people subsidize, we have to match that,"; he said.

Asked if plane and train manufacturer Bombardier Inc., a particular target of subsidy critics, could continue to benefit from federal government largess, he said: "We're reluctant converts."

Now, it would be easy to deride this sudden abandonment of principle by the Conservatives, or to dig up some archives of right-wing folks talking about how subsidies to Bombardier were the reason they could never vote for the Liberals, but, to be honest, I'm just happy to see Solberg - likely to be a senior member in cabinet - quickly realizing and admitting the reality of the situation.

Which is to say, that when you're dealing with problems that have a prisoner-dilemma type structure (i.e. collective action problems) and which are international in scope, made in Canada solutions don't work. You need to rely on international agreements. Given how quickly Solberg has grasped this key concept, I will definitely be supporting him for Minister of the Environment, the motherlode of international collective action problems, and a place where his recognition of the need for international agreements to solve international problems will serve him well.

Boring Site Note

Just a quick post to note that I've changed things around a little on the sidebar. Anything that was linked before should still be linked but I have collapsed some groups of links down to a single header to clean things up a little. To expand collapsed lists of links, click on the [+] sign over to the right of the sidebar. If you see any problems let me know, I only tested it in Internet Explorer and Firefox, but usually if something works with the fragile Explorer it works most places.

Thanks to Curt's Northwestern Winds site whose html I examined to figure out how to get the expandable boxes to work properly. Note: You can auto-generate code for the boxes here, but you'll likely still have to do some tinkering after the fact to fit it into your template.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Spector vs. Spector

A few days ago, Antonia tore apart one of Norman Spector's recent 'trees-died-for-this?' columns in the Globe. She doesn't need my help, but I just wanted to add something I found humourous.

Spector, Paragraph 10:
"the words and images transmitted by the CBC have become poisonously anti-American ... And its programming regularly stereotypes Western Canadians, particularly Albertans — one of the few prejudices that is still socially acceptable in Canada."

Spector, Paragraph 7:
"Basically, Quebeckers want the same things British Columbians want, only they want to be able to live it in French. Also, while Lotus Landers go jogging and have learned to ignore Ottawa, Quebeckers — poorer and a minority — will continue to bargain collectively for more money and more jurisdiction."

I hate it when people stereotype a whole province - don't you?

It makes blogging so much easier when they debunk themselves.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I The People

Skippy's been on a roll lately, and if you missed his post the other day, demolishing one instance of the post-election attempt by (so) many pundits to treat the electorate as if it was a single sentient being, you should go take a look:

The Toronto Sun, the shining pinnacle of Canadian journalism that features a half-naked woman on page three to remind us why it truly is the thinking man's newspaper, offers an insight into the mind of the Canadian voter in today's editorial:
What voters collectively said on Monday was crystal clear.
They want to test-drive a Harper government -- one constrained, but not paralysed, by the opposition.

Perhaps the editorial writer's mind was distracted by the aforementioned page three at the time. The only possible response, in any case, is that this is utter bullshit. Even tree trunks, clods of freshly turned soil, and clumps of clumping cat litter realize that voters never "collectively" say anything, except that they disagree.

Some voters said, "I want the Conservatives to run the country unfettered." Others said, "I want Stephen Harper in the unemployment line by Monday next." And forty percent of adult Canadians said, ..."

Read the rest.

Harper Joins the Elite - Class War Scandal!

Uh oh, I hope all those people who voted for the Tim Horton's-loving Conservatives against the arrogant Starbucks-frequenting elite don't see this post over at Lotusland (complete with damning picture!).

Stephen Harper a man of the people? Lies, all lies!

Update: Double Uh Oh, The latte's really out of the bag1 now! (via On the Fence)

1 Yes, I know, you don't put lattes in bags, but really, who puts cats in bags?


I went to watch 'Lost' this week and they had on an episode of 'Touched By an Angel' instead. What was up with that? Anyway, I hope they bring 'Lost' back, it was a good show last year.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Prediction Recap

Just thought I'd recap how I did with my riding by riding predictions. The ridings I got wrong are listed with the margin of victory in brackets. I may have missed a few errors since there are a lot of ridings.

Newfoundland 7/7 (Election Prediction Project 6/7)

P.E.I. 4/4 (Election Prediction Project 4/4)

Nova Scotia 10/11 (Election Prediction Project 11/11)
* West Nova (511)

New Brunswick 8/10 (Election Prediction Project 8/10)
* Miramichi (2,766)
* Saint John (1,446)

Quebec: 65/75 (Election Prediction Project 66/75)
* Beauport-Limelieu (812)
* Bourassa (4,928)
* Charlesbourg--Haute-Saint-Charles (1,368)
* Honore-Mercier (1,939)
* Jonquiere-Alma (6,768)
* Laval-Les-Iles (3,212)
* Levis-Bellechase (9,717)
* Lotbiniere--Chutes-de-la-Chaudiere (12,834) - oops!
* Louis-Hebert (103)
* Megantic--L'Arable (8,011)

Ontario: 96/106 (Election Prediction Project 98/106)
* Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing (1,408)
* Brampton West (7,644)
* Brant (582)
* Hamilton Mountain (2,782)
* Kenora (1,036)
* London-Fanshawe (997, 2,733 vs. my pick)
* London West (1,332)
* Newmarket-Aurora (4,805)
* Nickel Belt (2,107)
* Sarnia-Lambton (3,187)

Manitoba: 12/14 (Election Prediction Project 12/14)
* Winnipeg South (110)
* Winnipeg South Centre (3,199)

Saskatchewan: 12/14 (Election Prediction Project 12/14)
* Desnethe--Missinippi--Churchill River (106)
* Regina-Qu'Appelle (2,740)

Alberta: 28/28 (Election Prediction Project 28/28)

B.C.: 29/36 (Election Prediction Project 31/36)
* Equimalt-Juan De Fuca (2161)
* New Westminister (2,928)
* North Vancouver (3,334)
* Surrey North (6,362)
* Vancouver Centre (8,641)
* Vancouver Kingsway (4,494)
* West Vancouver (986)

Territories 3/3 (Election Prediction Project 2/3)

Total right: 274 (Election Prediction Project 278)
Total Wrong: 34 (Election Prediction Project 30)

So I'd say that I gave it a pretty good effort, especially since everyone is lauding the accuracy of the Election Prediction Project's predictions. Of course I used the forums provided by election prediction project to make my own predictions, so what limited success I had is partly a credit to them as well.

Still, next time I hope to defeat them and those Democratic Space people (283 correct) too! - I guess getting my own riding right would be a good start.

The Conservative Media, Part 3

So it turns out that when I wrote this:
"It's too bad that McGill isn't doing a study of media bias like they did last time. Given that the results showed that the media had a pro-Conservative, anti-Liberal bias (based on their methodology) in the last election, I can only imagine the size of the bias they would have found this time."
a couple of weeks ago, I was guilty of some shoddy research because it turns out that McGill was doing the survey again this time (thanks to commenter Bailey for the tip).

For reference, my post on the study's results for the last election is here.

Unfortunately, the data available (so far) is much less detailed than what was available for the last election but we can still identify the basics:

During the campaign there were 3,753 articles written about the election in the 7 newspapers studied (The Calgary Herald, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun, La Presse and Le Devoir).

Of those 3753, 3035 mentioned the Liberal party. Out of those 3035, there were 40 with positive mentions of the Liberal party and 445 with negative mentions of the Liberals, giving a 11 to 1 ratio of negative mentions to positive (slightly higher than last election's 10-1 ratio).

Meanwhile, for the Conservative Party, the figures were 2730 total articles, including 144 positive mentions and 127 negative mentions, for a slightly positive overall slant (the positive mentions were similar to last election, but the negatives were cut in half).

The NDP garnered 2% positive mentions and 3% negative mentions, while the Bloc received 2% positive coverage, 4% negative.

The numbers for the party leaders are quite similar with Martin getting 5 negative mentions for every positive one, while Harper received more favourable than unfavourable mentions.

Of course there may be any number of explanations for these results including the media rooting for the underdog, the media following poll shifts, a general unwillingness to praise the governing party, poorly/well run campaigns and so on. Still, it seems hard to say that media bias was anything but harmful to the Liberals.
(note: I copied this paragraph verbatim from last election's post - nothing has changed).

OK, now here's the funny part. I figured that since McGill was doing the study again, there must have been some coverage of it in the blogs (especially since media bias is such a contentious topic, and actual data on the topic is so rare) so I did a Technorati search and a google blogs search for various search terms like OMPP, McGill Media Study, etc. Here's what I found:

Let it Bleed, written after the first week of the campaign (when the samples sizes were quite small):
"Because the Tories were generally in the forefront of policy announcements during the first week of the campaign, we can assume that they would get more coverage, but, gosh, why would Harper's negatives be so high? Alternatively, why would there be such a discrepancy in the negatives attached to the party as a whole compared to Harper individually? On the third hand, why would the Liberal Party have such high negatives, while Martin personally fares relatively well?"

Although Bob did acknowledge the 'absence of liberal media bias' , later on in the campaign, there was no further mention of the study (that I can see) as the initial negatives for Harper turned positive while the initial positives for Martin turned sharply negative.

Then there was Mark Peters' objective coverage of the study, headlined: "Study verifies media bias against Stephen Harper". I'm sure he'll be running a correction any day now, if he can find time when he's not writing stuff like, "In a world where the media routinely take strips off of Stephen Harper, it is a breath of fresh air to see a columnist dress down Paul Martin."

Lastly, What it Takes to Win's equally objective coverage of the study (quoting Macleans):
"An analysis of newspaper coverage in the opening days of this campaign concludes Stephen Harper received the most negative coverage of the four main party leaders, even more negative than the coverage he got in the disastrous final week of the 2004 election.

Initial coverage of Paul Martin was not only less negative, it was more positive than the waning days of the last campaign, when the Prime Minister rebounded to pull out his narrow victory. "The findings are rather striking," said Stuart Soroka, co-director of McGill University's Observatory on Media and Public Policy (OMPP), which conducted the analysis. "Martin has been doing progressively better in the media over time and Harper has been doing progressively worse."

A fair summary of the results, don't you think? What, no mention that at the same time, the Liberal party coverage was negative and the Conservative party coverage was positive? No follow up when this initial impression turned out to be very wrong? Once again, we await a post on the study's final results.

And that's pretty much all I found. Now, blog searches aren't perfect and I make no claims to be a thorough researcher, but it seems safe to say that, after a small flurry on posts after the first week when there was still a small sliver of anti-Conservative bias which could be imagined from the results, there has been a deep, echoing silence.

Let's summarize. Newspaper coverage of the 2006 election: favourable to the Conservatives and Stephen Harper, extremely unfavourable to the Liberals and Paul Martin. Right wing blogger reaction: Three posts after the first week of the study, one simply reporting the (at that point) mixed results, and two proclaiming evidence of a Liberal media bias. Number of admissions that the study showed (same as last election) a strong anti-Liberal tone in the media: 0

So the next time you see someone complaining about a Liberal media bias in this country, just point them here, and ask them if they've located their missing credibility yet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Random Thought For the Day

Is it just me, or are we about 60% of the way through the slowest, most cautious change of government in the history of the first-past-the-post electoral system?

Or are we just at the starting point of one of the most transient, unsubstantial, change-of-government-just-so-we-can-say-we-did-it, changes of government in the history of the first-past-the-post electoral system?

A Change in the Weather

Sunshine and blue skies on the way to work this morning. Quite possibly for the first time in 56 days (i.e. since the start of the election campaign).

Monday, January 23, 2006

Election Night

I wonder how long that 1 green seat will last on the CBC scorecard?


Well I got Newfoundland and P.E.I. right, but it looks like I overestimated the Bloc's ability to hold its vote (despite discounting them a little).


Good grief, it looks like whoever wins Peterbrough could do it with less than 1/3 of the vote - can we have electoral reform sometime soon please:

Conservative Dean Del Mastro 6,947 33.0 33.0%
Green Party Brent Wood 1,084 5.2 5.2%
Independent Bob Bowers 72 0.3 0.3%
Liberal Diane Lloyd 6,742 32.1 32.1%
Marijuana Party Aiden Wiechula 174 0.8 0.8%
N.D.P. Linda Slavin 6,008 28.6 28.6%


7:43 (pst): 151 and counting for the CPC + NDP total, 155 needed for a clear majority. 5 left unreported (including Van. Centre),


152, 3 to go.


Hey, Mansbridge is stealing my thunder...


Election prediction project underestimated the Tory surge in Quebec as well, but otherwse they are kicking ass, prediction-wise.


7:53 André Arthur must be loving this.


What's up with Vancouver Centre - they can't count a single poll yet?


If Tony Clement loses Parry Sound he should really pack it in (in terms of politics), or maybe find a province which likes him more.


As CalgaryGrit notes, SES is another prediction winner, once again (as in 2004) putting their polling rivals to shame. Once could be a fluke, twice starts to look like some kind of methodological flaw on the part of the other pollsters. Ipsos & Strategic Counsel are going to take another hit to their credibility, the way things are going.


49 seats for the Bloc? Is this the beginning of the end for them?


If the Conservative vote really is up 4% in B.C. (and isn't just an artifact of which polls have reported so far), while the Conservatives are losing a lot of seats here, it would be a sign that the B.C. vote has really polarized.


Looks like I was wrong this time and Fry will keep her seat. I have to say I'm not too surprised (or upset, interesting to see how Fry does in opposition). I got so much contact from Fry's campaign team in the last couple of days that I half expected them to come by, pick me up, carry me to the polls and force me to vote Liberal. Whereas from Svend's campaign, next to nothing.

I see the CPC + NDP total is right at 155 for the moment.


Stronach also surprised me, I thought she was toast. Well done, although the media coverage seems a little much.


8:31 CPC + NDP down to 153.


Maybe it will shift as the night goes on, but right now I'd be annoyed (if I was a Conservative supporter) that we're seeing more coverage of Liberal candidates than Conservative ones - maybe it's just me.


Given the circumstances, the overall results seem pretty reasonable to me. Kudos to the Canadian public! Bring on the next session of parliament.

also, sorry about some comments being held im limbo for a while, I had comment moderation on for a while and although I turned it off, there seemed to be a bit of a delay before it lifted, so I had to let through comments manually. Seems OK now.


Paul Martin sure looks happy - maybe he's just happy it's over.


Looks like the Green Party has held its support from the last election (582 thousand in 2004, 576 thousand and conting this time around). Pretty impressive under the circumstances. Instant Update: That didn't take long, now they're ahead of their 2004 total.


Something about Martin's tone when he said that 'the people of Canada have chosen Harper to lead a minority government' made me feel that he was trying to hide his glee about how Harper would suffer trying to do just that.


9 Liberals in B.C. (for the moment)? - I didn't see that coming.


Mansbridge is making a good point that we could see efforts to pull a couple of Bloc members over to the federalist (Conservative) side - it wouldn't be the first time!


General comment on my predictions - I think my biggest general mistake (outside of Quebec) was underestimating the power of incumbency (North Van, Van Centre, Esquimalt, and lots more) - people say they want change, but I'm not sure they really do!


Is Stephen Harper still speaking?


10:40 Still?


Well, I have little faith in God's willingness to bless the country - if you ask me, it's up to us. Go to it Stephen, we'll be keeping an eye on you, but hoping for the best.

Non-Partisan Voting Thoughts

In the non-partisan spirit of the day, and to pass the time between now and the closing of the last polls, some last words from across the board:

Why We Vote Green

Why It's Time (to vote NDP)

Why I (Jason Cherniak) is Voting Liberal

and finally

(Conservative) Minority Priorities

Note: I looked around but none of the blogging tories seemed to have explanations of why they were voting Conservative, so this was the best I could do, feel free to offer) a better link

Happy Results-Watching!


When it comes to voting, my sentiments are similar to Laura's,
"I love walking the streets and seeing the signs (especially since in Van Quadra most of them are Liberal signs [ed. - mostly Svend here in Van Centre]). Then I just get so hyped up filling out my ballot -- reading all the names, rechecking to make sure I put the X in the right place, given the two Stephens on the candidate list -- and having the poll clerk rip off the little strip and then stuffing it in the box. It's just so great! It's worth the rain and the cold and the work and the stress. Maybe, just maybe, it's even worth Stephen Harper."

I always find that, when I'm in the elementary school gym or church hall or wherever the local polling station is, I'm really struck by just how fortunate we are to even have these universally accessible public places in the first place, to have so many people interested and committed enough to run the whole process on a non-partisan basis in the second case, to have universal suffrage in the third place, to have four different national parties presenting credible versions of a Canadian future in the fourth place, and to have the whole system run peacefully, without a need for armed guards or onerous oversight procedures in the fifth place. It all amounts to a minor miracle, and it boggles my mind that anyone could take it all so much for granted as to stay home and not bother voting.

It's also a good time to remember that, whether in Trinity-Spadina or Peace River, Vancouver Centre or Abbotsford, the things that unite us, the continuing quest for peace, order and good government, are far stronger than the things which divide us. And it's our job, more than anything else as citizens, to ensure that we preserve our democracy and that we hold our government, whatever party it may be from, to a deep respect for all of the people of this country and for the shared principles that stretch from one ocean to another.

(Calmly Analytical, then Angry, now Saccharine ... It's just an emotional roller-coaster at CAtO around election time!)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Remind Me, How Does This Story End?

You know, when I read Thomas Frank's, 'The Trouble With Kansas', I was hoping it might serve as a warning to Canadians not to fall into the same trap, but instead, it seems like it has served as a road-map for some people to push Canadians into that trap.

Here's a quote from Warren Kinsella (Jan 22):
"With every photo op (the one around Christmas, showing the Tory leader taking his kids to a hockey rink like this one), with every positive statement (Harper stressing his middle-class roots in places like Leaside, where this rink is located), with every critical statement (the continual references to Paul Martin's millions, and his decision to fly his pollution-spewing ships under foreign flags - to avoid paying taxes like the rest of us do). With everything they did, the Tory campaign was all about the revenge of the hockey Moms and Dads.

It wasn't about Left versus Right. It wasn't about Urban versus Rural. It wasn't about East versus West. It wasn't about French versus English.

It was about us (the people at hockey rinks, holding cups from Tim's or Coffee Time) versus the elites (the ones who have never been on public transit*, and who read the Sunday Times at Starbucks).

To some folks, that probably sounds pretty simplistic. But that's the way I approach the election campaigns I've been privileged to be involved in. Keep it simple. What's the story people want to hear? What's the story we should telling them? Simple.

Stephen Harper will win because he's told the story people want to hear, and because he deserves to win."

When it comes to political instincts, Kinsella is pretty sharp, and his assertion that Harper will win because he told people a story they want to hear sounds plausible to me.

After all, who doesn't want to stick it to the man, to show up those expensive coffee drinking snobs who are always looking down on 'us', to get one back at 'the elite'.

So let's consider how voting Conservative sticks it to the man, to the latte, to the elite.

I know if I was in the elite, nothing would trouble me more than the prospect of cuts to capital gains taxes, cuts to sales taxes, cuts to corporate taxes, less spending on the poor and disadvantaged, and a child care plan that provides the same benefit to millionaires as it does to single parents. Yeah, I bet the elite is shaking in its boots - that must be why West Vancouver, one of the wealthiest ridings in the country, is most likely going to elect a Conservative.

Look, if the Conservative want to tell a story, that's their right. And if people want to believe it, that's their right too. All I'm saying is people should consider how the story ends - and it's not a happy ending if you were voting to show up the elite.

Here's some free advice for anyone casting a vote to upset the elite: Don't vote for the party that was endorsed by the Globe and Mail. Don't vote for the parties that are supported by all the wealthy media owners and opinion makers this country has to offer. Don't vote for a party that lives in fear of offending the American elites. Don't vote for a party whose biggest change to government revenue will be to reduce the taxes paid by the wealthy and by corporations.

It's easy to tell when you're doing something that truly alarms the elites, because they start squawking loud and long (Thomas D'Aquino is the canary in this particular mine). Imagine if polls suggested an NDP majority. Imagine a referendum on electoral reform at the federal level. Imagine proposals for a tax system which was actually significantly progressive. Imagine the howls of anguish ringing from all the corporate controlled media across the country - that's what taking on the elite looks and sounds like.

Here's my point: if you have other reasons for voting Conservative or Liberal, fine by me. But if you're voting for either of these parties because you think it is some kind of anti-elite anti-Starbucks, anti-Sunday Times, pro-transit statement you're making, well, all I can say is someone sold you a story, and you bought it like the simple-minded sucker Warren seems to think you are. Want to make the true elite sweat? Vote NDP or Green.

* Never been on Transit? - Huh? The people who've never been on public transit are the Conservative voters. Seriously, if you wanted to take one piece of information on a riding and use it to predict whether it would go Conservative or not, your best bet would be to look at transit usage and call any riding where it was high to go NDP or Liberal and any riding where it was low to go Conservative.

Furthermore, could we retire the sadly overused, yet obviously inaccurate, cliché that the people waiting in line for coffee at Starbucks are the elite? Sheesh.

Wait, What Am I Voting For Again?

If you have a last-minute desire to know where the parties stand on the issues, most of the major media outlets have some sort of 'where do they stand' summary of the issues, but Andrew Spicer's summary is probably the most readable one I've seen so far (plus you get his italicized editorializing as a bonus).

Friday, January 20, 2006

Prediction Time

Update: Over at Fruits and Votes, Matthew has a very interesting poli-sci-mathematics based prediction estimate, taking some standard formulas used to project seats based on polls and adapting them to some of the Canadian federal election, uh, eccentricities. I never knew such formulas existed - now I'm interested to see how they do.

Meanwhile, if I had to pick someome to predict B.C. results for me with money on the line, I'd get Sacha to do it. Still on B.C., Will McMartin at the Tyee is a funny writer, but I'm not sure I trust him on his predictions, especially after the municipal elections...

Well, I found myself with a little free time so I thought I'd try to do a thorough job of making some election predictions. Now, I'm under no illusions that putting in more effort will help improve my fairly poor recent predictions, but I just thought it would be fun.

First, some resources:

The UBC Election Stock Market - when people have money on the line, they take things seriously.

The election prediction project: A riding by riding analysis

The official results from last time.

Results from last time, riding by riding, at a glance.

Long term results by riding.

Hill & Knowlton's Election Predictor

A summary of the polls

More polling data

One last poll aggregator (from SFU)

The percentages of the vote each party received last time, by province:

Province |Lib | CPC | NDP | GRN | Bloc | Oth
Newfoundland | 48 | 32 | 18 | 2 | 0 | 1
P.E.I. | 53 | 31 | 13 | 4 | 0 | 0
Nova Scotia | 40 | 28 | 28 | 3 | 0 | 0
New Brunswick | 45 | 31 | 21 | 3 | 0 | 0
Quebec | 34 | 9 | 5 | 3 | 49 | 0
Ontario | 45 | 32 | 18 | 4 | 0 | 0
Manitoba | 33 | 39 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 0
Saskatchewan | 27 | 42 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 5
Alberta | 22 | 62 | 9 | 6 | 0 | 0
B.C. | 29 | 36 | 27 | 6 | 0 | 0

Since polls often have regional breakdowns, a regional breakdown of the 2004 results is useful as well.

Atlantic | 44 | 30 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 0
Prairies | 25 | 53 | 15 | 5 | 0 | 0
Man/Sask | 30 | 40 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 1

OK, let's start in the East, comparing last elections results in Atlantic Canada to recent polls (keeping in mind that recent polls are all over the map and have high margins of error:

Atlantic (2004)| 44 | 30 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 0
Atlantic (poll)| 37 | 38 | 22 | 3 | 0 | 0

So basically, across the region we're looking at a 7 point Liberal to Conservative swing, with momentum on the side of the Conservatives and NDP as of the last polls.


Last time: | 48 | 32 | 18 | 2 | 0 | 1

A somewhat recent poll (it preceded a run-up in Conservative support in the Atlantic region after the debates) puts the Liberals at 46 and the Conservatives at 40% and the NDP at 11%.

Taking it all into consideration, I'll say:

Avalon: Conservative (won easily by Efford (LIB) last time, but he's not running)
Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor: Liberal
Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte: Liberal
Labrador: Liberal
Random-Burin-St. Georges: Liberal (much as I hate to try and predict an outcome in a riding named 'Random')
St. John's East: Conservative
St. John's South-Mount Pearl: Conservative

Total: Liberal 4 (-1) Conservative 3 (+1)


Last Time: | 53 | 31 | 13 | 4 | 0 | 0

It will take the full 7 or point swing to the Conservatives to even make these ridings close. Election Prediction Project lists Charlottetown as the one riding too close to call. Based on results last time, Mapleque is the most likely to swing Conservative. Still, islanders were scared to change their electoral system and I'm skeptical they're going to change any of their MP's, either. If the Liberals lose more than one here, they're in for a very long night.

Cardigan: Liberal
Charlottetown: Liberal
Egmont: Liberal
Mapleque: Liberal

Total: Liberal 4 (no change)

Nova Scotia

Last Time | 40 | 28 | 28 | 3 | 0 | 0

Cape Breton-Canso: Liberal
Central Nova: Conservative (Peter Mackay's riding)
Dartmouth Cole-Harbour: Liberal (this one is pretty wide open)
Halifax: NDP (Alexa McDonough's riding - students don't vote in big numbers but it should still help the NDP having them on campus for this election)
Halifax West: Liberal
Kings-Hants: tough one. I noted a 7-8% swing from the Liberals to the Conservatives in Atlantic Canada - it would take a 7.5% swing to unseat Scott Brison. Of course Brison is no stranger to swinging between the two parties, let's go with the incumbent: Liberal
Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley (formerly North Nova - the printing budget just went through the roof!): Conservative, in a walk.
Sackville-Eastern Shore: NDP
South Shore-St. Margaret's: Conservative
Sydney-Victoria: Liberal
West Nova: Conservative: Could be another tight one (or even an easy Liberal win), but I gave the earlier close call (Brison) to the Libs, so I'll give this one to the Conservatives

Total: Liberal 5 (-1), Conservative 4 (+1), NDP 2 (nc)

New Brunswick

Last Time | 45 | 31 | 21 | 3 | 0 | 0

Acadie-Bathurst: NDP
Beauséjour: Liberal
Fredericton: Liberal (Could be tight for cabinet member Andy Scott in this one, I wouldn't be surprised to see him lose)
Fundy Royal: Conservative
Madawaska-Restigouche: Liberal (this is a tough one, but maybe the advantage of incumbency will be enough for the Libs here
Miramichi: Conservative (I've called a couple of close ones for the Libs, so best to call one Conservative to balance out)
Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe: Liberals
Saint-John: Conservative
New Brunswick Southwest (formerly St. Croix-Belleisle): Conservative
Tobique-Mactaquac: Conservative

Total: Conservative 5 (+3), Liberal 4 (-3), NDP 1 (nc)


Comparing last time with a composite estimate of recent polls
2004 | 34 | 9 | 5 | 3 | 49 | 0
Poll | 18 | 26 | 8 | 3 | 46 | 0

These predictions will be tough, as I'm too far away to have a good sense of which ridings all those new Conservative voters (if they hold true at the polls) are going to show up in.

Abitibi--Baie-James--Nunavik--Eeyou: Bloc
Abitibi--Témiscamingue: Bloc
Ahuntsic: Bloc (tight one, potentially)
Alfred-Pellan: Bloc
Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel: Bloc
Bas-Richelieu--Nicolet--Bécancour: Bloc
Beauce: Conservative
Beauharnois--Salaberry: Bloc
Beauport--Limoilou: Bloc
Berthier--Maskinongé: Bloc
Bourassa: Bloc (Coderre's riding, could well stay Liberal)
Brome--Missisquoi: Bloc
Brossard--La Prairie: Bloc
Chambly--Borduas: Bloc
Charlesbourg--Haute-Saint-Charles: Bloc
Chateauguay--Saint-Constant: Bloc
Chicoutimi--Le Fjord: Bloc
Compton--Stanstead: Bloc
Drummond: Bloc
Gaspésie--Iles-de-la-Madeleine: Bloc
Gatineau: Bloc (another interesting race, Con/Lib vote splitting should benefit the Bloc here, as in much of the province)
Haute-Gaspésie--La Mitis--Matane--Matapédia: Bloc
Hochelaga: Bloc
Honoré-Mercier: Bloc
Hull--Aylmer: Liberal (grim news for the Liberals if they lose this long time Liberal riding, but it could happen)
Jeanne-Le Ber: Bloc
Joliette: Bloc
Jonquière--Alma: Bloc
La Pointe-de-l'ile: Bloc
Lac-Saint-Louis: Liberal
LaSalle--Émard: Liberal (Paul Martin's riding)
Laurentides--Labelle: Bloc
Laurier--Sainte-Mari: Bloc (Gilles Duceppe's riding)
Laval: Bloc
Laval--Les Iles: Bloc (another potential bloc pickup due to the Con-Lib split)
Lévis--Bellechasse: Bloc (although the numbers sugest this could be a surprise Con pickup)
Longueuil--Pierre-Boucher: Bloc
Lotbinière--Chutes-de-la-Chaudière: Bloc Another one the Cons could make close, or win)
Louis-Hébert: Bloc
Louis-Saint-Laurent: Conservative
Manicouagan: Bloc
Marc-Aurèle-Fortin: Bloc
Mégantic--L'Arable: Bloc
Montcalm: Bloc
Montmagny--L'Islet--Kamouraska--Rivière-du-Loup: Bloc
Montmorency--Charlevoix--Haute-Cote-Nord: Bloc
Mount Royal: Liberal
Notre-Dame-de-Grace--Lachine: Liberal
Outremont: Liberal (Barely, Jean Lapierre's riding, probably the best chance for the NDP in Quebec, but that isn't saying a lot)
Papineau: Bloc (Petigrew's riding)
Pierrefonds--Dollard: Liberal
Pontiac Quebec: Conservative
Portneuf--Jacques-Cartier: Independent (André Arthur) Wikpedia has some history on Arthur and the Globe did a (subscriber only) story on him. A popular former talk radio host, a recent Decima poll gave him 36% of the vote, with 30% likely being enough to take this 4 way race.
Québec: Bloc
Repentigny: Bloc
Richmond--Arthabaska: Bloc
Rimouski-Neigette--Témiscouata--Les Basques: Bloc
Rivière-des-Mille-Isles: Bloc
Rivière-du-Nord: Bloc
Roberval--Lac-Saint-Jean: Bloc
Rosemont--La Petite-Patrie: Bloc
Saint-Bruno--Saint-Hubert: Bloc
Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot: Bloc
Saint-Jean: Bloc
Saint-Lambert: Bloc
Saint-Laurent--Cartierville: Liberal (Stéphane Dion's riding)
Saint-Léonard--Saint-Michel: Liberal (Notwithstanding that it used to be Gagiano's riding)
Saint-Maurice--Champlain: Bloc
Shefford: Bloc (could be interesting)
Sherbrooke: Bloc
Terrebonne--Blainville: Bloc
Trois-Rivières: Bloc
Vaudreuil-Soulanges: Bloc
Verchères--Les Patriotes: Bloc
Westmount--Ville-Marie: Liberal (Robillard's riding)

Total: Bloc 61 (+7), Liberals 10 (-11), Conservatives 3 (+3), Independent 1 (+1)


2004 | 45 | 32 | 18 | 4 | 0 | 1
Poll | 36 | 38 | 20 | 6 | 0 | 0

Basically the Liberals are bleeding support, mainly to the Conservatives, but some to the NDP and some Green as well.

Ajax--Pickering: Liberal (should be close but Rondo Thomas may be a bit too so-con for this riding)
Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing: NDP (should be a close, potentially 3-way race)
Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Westdale: Conservative
Barrie: Conservative
Beaches--East York: Liberal (interesting riding, my gut tells me it will go NDP, but I'm going to ignore it and figure that Green Leader Jim Harris gets enough votes to keep Churley (NDP) from knocking off Minna (LIB). Of course, if a lot of Minna's voters go CON (unlikely in this riding), the NDP could still take it. Tough one.
Bramalea--Gore--Malton: Liberal (Cons could take this one)
Brampton--Springdale: Liberal
Brampton West: Conservative
Brant: Conservative
Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound: Conservative
Burlington: Conservative
Cambridge: Conservative
Carleton--Mississippi Mills: Conservative
Chatham-Kent--Essex: Conservative
Davenport: Liberal (NDP could make this traditionally Liberal riding quite close, but it would take a real 406 area code surge for the NDP to break through here.
Don Valley East: Liberal
Don Valley West: Liberal
Dufferin--Caledon: Conservative
Durham: Conservative
Eglinton--Lawrence: Liberal (Volpe's riding)
Elgin--Middlesex--London: Conservative
Essex: Conservative
Etobicoke Centre: Liberal
Etobicoke--Lakeshore: Liberal
Etobicoke North: Liberal
Glengarry--Prescott--Russell: Conservative
Guelph: Liberal
Haldimand--Norfolk: Conservative
Haliburton--Kawartha Lakes--Brock: Conservative
Halton: Conservative (tough one, currently Liberal)
Hamilton Centre: NDP
Hamilton East--Stoney Creek: NDP (Valeri's riding)
Hamilton Mountain: Liberal (tight one)
Huron--Bruce: Liberal - Steckle could be lonely in regional caucus meetings if he holds enough of his huge margin of victory (for a Liberal in rural Western Ontario) from last time
Kenora: Conservative (but really, who knows with this one)
Kingston and the Islands: Liberal (Milliken's riding)
Kitchener Centre: Liberal
Kitchener--Conestoga: Conservative
Kitchener--Waterloo: Liberal
Lambton--Kent--Middlesex: Conservative
Lanark--Frontenac--Lennox and Addington: Conservative
Leeds--Grenville: Conservative
London--Fanshawe: Conservative (Pat O'Brien's old riding)
London North Centre: Liberal (Fontana is in a battle here)
London West: Conservative (Al Gretzky by the width of a puck over Liberal incumbent Sue Barnes)
Markham--Unionville: Liberal (Mcalllum's riding)
Mississauga--Brampton South: Liberal - barring local factors, it will take a bigger swing in the polls than we've seen so far to tip any of the Mississaga seats from Red to Blue
Mississauga East--Cooksville: Liberal
Mississauga--Erindale: Liberal
Mississauga South: Liberal
Mississauga--Streetsville: Liberal
Nepean--Carleton: Conservative
Newmarket--Aurora: Conservative (Stronach's riding)
Niagara Falls: Conservative
Niagara West--Glanbrook: Conservative
Nickel Belt: NDP (Bonin has held this for a while, but if the Cons steal 7-8% of the vote from the Libs as the polls predict, the NDP should be able to take this one.
Nipissing--Timiskaming: Liberal (this is a tough one, could easily go Conservative)
Northumberland--Quinte West: Conservative - Knowing the area, I was surprised to see riding went Liberal (barely) last time.
Oak Ridges--Markham: Liberal
Oakville: Liberal
Oshawa: Conservative (Would probably require people who voted Liberal last time to vote strategically for Ryan (NDP) for him to win here, still it's not out of the question.
Ottawa Centre: NDP - Broadbent is moving on, but enough Broadbent mojo probably remains, combined with slipping Liberal support, to keep this one in the NDP column.
Ottawa--Orleans: Conservative
Ottawa South: Liberal (David McGuinty vs. Cutler)
Ottawa--Vanier: Liberal
Ottawa West--Nepean: Conservative
Oxford: Conservative
Parkdale--High Park: NDP - Currently held for the Libs by Bulte, who alternates between helping write copyright law and raising funds from copyright industry lobbyists (and still finds time to threaten to sue people who point this out) - but it's a potential reduction in Green voters combined with a Lib->Con swing which could put this one in the NDP column.
Parry Sound--Muskoka: Conservative (will Clement finally win one?)
Perth--Wellington: Conservative
Peterborough: Conservative - the riding I grew up in, I'm pretty sure that if popular, respected long-time Lib MP Peter Adams had run again he could have won, but with him gone, I'm not so sure. I've heard through various channels that the Conservative candidate, Del Mastro, is, to be concise, a jerk, but he should still get elected nonetheless. The Liberal candidate, Diane Lloyd, isn't well known, and if people in Peterborough had wanted to elect Linda Slavin, they could have done it many times over by now. When my Dad starts muttering about voting Green, I know the alternatives are grim.
Peterborough rarely elects someone to the opposition benches and I don't think they will this time either (although the two times since 1957 that it did vote against the country, it was sticking with it's recent choice in the second of two elections held close together (1963, 1980))
Pickering--Scarborough East: Liberal
Prince Edward--Hastings: Conservative
Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke: Conservative
Richmond Hill: Liberal
Sarnia--Lambton: Liberal
Sault Ste. Marie: NDP
Scarborough--Agincourt: Liberal - Scarberia was a cold forbidding wasteland for anyone but Libs last time around, probably too much ground to make up, even with a substantial vote swing.
Scarborough Centre: Liberal
Scarborough--Guildwood: Liberal
Scarborough--Rouge River: Liberal
Scarborough Southwest: Liberal
Simcoe--Grey: Conservative
Simcoe North: Conservative
St. Catharines: Conservative
St. Paul's: Liberals - strong candidates here for both the Cons and NDP could put the squeeze in Bennett, but when you have an incumbent Cabinet Minister who won by over 20,000 votes last time (beating all other candidates combined by almost 10,000), picking them to win again is a good bet. This riding is the kind of place filled with people who still refer to Ontario as Upper Canada, and I doubt they will change their votes to the Cons until all traces of Western radicalism are gone from the party.
Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry: Conservative
Sudbury: Liberal
Thornhill: Liberal
Thunder Bay--Rainy River: Liberal (could be an interesting three way race here)
Thunder Bay--Superior North: Liberal
Timmins--James Bay: NDP
Toronto Centre: Liberal - another old riding of mine, Graham is too personally popular (with good reason) to lose here - he got 56.% of the vote last time.
Toronto--Danforth: NDP - Layton's riding, an easy win.
Trinity--Spadina: NDP - Chow's riding, should win fairly comfortably, although writing off Ianno is unwise.
Vaughan: Liberal
Welland: Liberal - this one is wide open.
Wellington--Halton Hills: Conservative
Whitby--Oshawa: Conservative - Flaherty tries a move to federal politics
Willowdale: Liberal
Windsor--Tecumseh: NDP
Windsor West: NDP
York Centre: Liberal (Dryden's riding)
York--Simcoe: Conservative
York South--Weston: Liberal (Alan Tonks' riding)
York West: Liberal (Sgro's riding)

whew, Ontario really is seat-rich!

Total: Liberal 49 (-26), Conservative 45 (+21), NDP 12 (+5)


Last Time | 33 | 39 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 0

Alas, Manitoba-only polling results are hard to find and have small sample sizes.

Man/Sask (2004) | 30 | 40 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 3
Man/Sask (Poll) | 29 | 44 | 22 | 4 | 0 | 1

Also, Manitoba native Sean Incognito posted some riding by riding analysis before (sadly) hanging up his keyboard recently.

Brandon--Souris: Conservative
Charleswood--St. James--Assiniboia: Conservative (Fletcher's riding)
Churchill: Liberal (Bev Desjarlais running as an independent throws this one wide open. My (often faulty) memory suggests that MP's who get tossed out of their party after taking a popular stand on a high profile issue and then run as independents tend to get re-elected, but Desjarlais didn't win by much last time around. I already picked one independent so let's go with the numbers and assume the left wing vote split allows the Libs to win by a nose.
Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette: Conservative
Elmwood--Transcona: NDP (Blaikie's riding)
Kildonan--St. Paul: Conservative
Portage--Lisgar: Conservative
Provencher: Conservative (Vic Toews - glad I don't live in this riding)
Saint Boniface: Liberal
Selkirk--Interlake: Conservative
Winnipeg Centre: NDP (Pat Martin's riding)
Winnipeg North: NDP
Winnipeg South: Liberal (Alcock's riding, could be close but unlikely to change hands, unless Liberal support really drops at the last minute on the prairies)
Winnipeg South Centre: Conservative (could well stay Liberal, hedging my bets a little here in case of Liberal vote collapse).

Hmm, on review, I see that I made the same picks that Sean did.

Total: Conservative 8 (+1), Liberal 3, NDP 3 (-1)


Last Time | 27 | 42 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 5

Since Saskatchewan-only polling results are hard to find and have small sample sizes.

Man/Sask (2004) | 30 | 40 | 23 | 3 | 0 | 3
Man/Sask (Poll) | 29 | 44 | 22 | 4 | 0 | 1

Battlefords--Lloydminster: Conservative - interesting to see what impact Jim Pankiw has running as an independent - a bit of a wild card.
Blackstrap: Conservative
Cypress Hills--Grasslands: Conservative
Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River: Conservative, although it could certainly be close, I wouldn't be shocked to see the NDP win this, although it seems pretty unlikely.
Palliser: Conservative
Prince Albert: Conservative
Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre: Conservative (could be close)
Regina--Qu'Appelle: NDP (if Layton can convince people to vote strategically for the NDP instead of the Liberals, Nystrom should get this seat back for the NDP, big if, though)
Saskatoon--Humboldt: Conservative
Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar: Conservative
Saskatoon--Wanuskewin: Conservative (Vellacott vs. Chris Axowrthy vs. Jim Maddin)
Souris--Moose Mountain: Conservative
Wascana: Liberal (Ralph Goodale's riding)
Yorkton--Melville: Conservative

Total: Conservative 12 (-1), Liberal 1 (nc), NDP 1 (+1)


2004 | 22 | 62 | 9 | 6 | 0 | 0
Poll | 20 | 62 | 12 | 6 | 0 | 0

Politically, Albertans are known for 2 things:
1) Always voting for the same party
2) Threatening to leave the country because people in other provinces always vote for the same party.

While we may see some movement on #2 this election, #1 looks more solid than ever.

Total: Conservative 28 (+1) Liberal 0 (-1)

British Columbia

2004 | 29 | 36 | 27 | 6 | 0 | 0
Poll | 27 | 38 | 27 | 6 | 0 | 0

The polls suggest very little change in B.C. since the last election, with maybe a little support moving from the Liberals to the Conservatives.

Abbotsford: Conservative (at least Randy White is gone)
British Columbia Southern Interior: NDP - with Zeisman self-destructing (getting arrested) this should be an easy one
Burnaby--Douglas: NDP
Burnaby--New Westminster: NDP
Cariboo--Prince George: Conservative
Chilliwack--Fraser Canyon: Conservative
Delta--Richmond East: Conservative
Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca: NDP - Liberal incumbent (and former Reform MP) Keith Martin can't have been too happy about the Liberals anti-military in the cities ad.
Fleetwood--Port Kells: Conservative (Nina Grewal's riding)
Kamloops--Thompson--Cariboo: Conservative
Kelowna--Lake Country: Conservative
Kootenay--Columbia: Conservative
Langley British Columbia: Conservative
Nanaimo--Alberni: Conservative
Nanaimo--Cowichan: NDP
New Westminster--Coquitlam: Conservative - I called a couple of earlier close ones for the NDP so I should give one to the Cons to balance things out
Newton--North Delta: Liberal - a three way race (Gurmant Grewal isn't running this time), I think Dhaliwal will just pull it out
North Vancouver: Conservative - a tough battle, Don Bell caught the Cons a bit by surprise last time, in my opinion, with the polls leaning slightly in their favour, more motivated Cons voters should pull this one out.
Okanagan--Coquihalla: Conservative
Okanagan--Shuswap: Conservative
Pitt Meadows--Maple Ridge--Mission: Conservative
Port Moody--Westwood--Port Coquitlam: Conservative
Prince George--Peace River: Conservative
Richmond: Liberal, embattled Chan should hold on
Saanich--Gulf Islands: Conservative - much as I'd like to see Andrew Lewis win the Green's first seat, Lunn will likely hold on for a small plurality against strong opposition from the Libs, NDP and Greens
Skeena--Bulkley Valley: NDP - could easily go Conservative.
South Surrey--White Rock--Cloverdale: Conservative
Surrey North: Conservative - who will Cadman's voters vote for this time around? I figure mainly for the Cons
Vancouver Centre: NDP - It comes to this, after predicting ridings across the country, I have to admit I have no idea who will win my own riding. Last time around, election prediction project picked NDP (Kennedy), although I thought a Liberal (Fry) win was pretty clearly the most likely outcome. This time, election prediction project has made an early call for Fry, so perhaps just for the sake of symmetry I'm going to go with Svend Robinson although I'm not nearly as confident as I was last time.
Vancouver East: NDP
Vancouver Island North: NDP (tough race NDP vs. Cons here)
Vancouver Kingsway: NDP (LIB Cabinet Member Emerson is in tough here and cold lose to the NDP because he loses too many votes to the Cons)
Vancouver Quadra: Liberal
Vancouver South: Liberal
Victoria: NDP - With David Anderson gone, this should go NDP
West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country: Conservative - a tough one to finish off with, the libs could certainly take this one, especially with John Reynolds not running.

Total: Conservatives 21 (-1), NDP 11 (+6), Liberals 4 (-4)

Hmm, I have the NDP more than doubling their seat total without increasing their share of the vote. Seems iffy, although they lost a lot of close ones last time around. Oh well.


Nunavut: Liberal
Western Arctic: NDP
Yukon: Liberal

Total: Liberal 2 (-1), NDP 1 (+1)

Grand Total: Conservative 130, Liberal 86, Bloc 61, NDP 30, Independent 1

I guess we'll see on Monday.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Obvious Answer Not Always the Right Answer

Here's something that happens every election, but I'm only going to explain once.

Voting in advance polls has been going up for years and years. Meanwhile overall voting turnout has been going down. So when the results come in for the advance polls and elections Canada says that more people voted in advance polls than last time, and everybody goes out and writes a headline or a blog post about the 'encouraging' increase in advance poll turnout, it's really just a sign that we are all doomed.

Some numbers from Elections Canada:

# of Advance Voters:
1997: 704,336
2000: 775,157
2004: 1,248,469
2006: 1,561,945
turnout %:
1997: 67.0%
2000: 61.2%
2004: 60.9%
2006: ?

Credit to the Globe and Mail for getting the story right. Maybe there is hope for us yet.

On the other hand, check out this article from the Star.

Starting in paragraph 3,
"Weather doesn't influence voter turnout," said Nelson Wiseman, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Weisman said the experience in provincial elections in Ontario and Prince Edward Island in October, 2003 make the point.

"It was a beautiful sunny fall day here in Ontario," Wiseman said. "Voter turnout was 57 per cent. In Prince Edward Island, there was a hurricane on election day. Turnout was 83 per cent."

Rather than the skies above, one should consult history for an accurate prediction, Wiseman says. He notes that Ontario has historically low turnouts in provincial elections, while in P.E.I. it is high."

A few short lines later,
"The weather for Ontario, at least, suggests it will be a mild day to vote, so weather shouldn't be a factor in this province."


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Our Conservative Media

It's too bad that McGill isn't doing a study of media bias like they did last time. Given that the results showed that the media had a pro-Conservative, anti-Liberal bias (based on their methodology) in the last election, I can only imagine the size of the bias they would have found this time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Still on the topic of candidate blogs, I have been slow to point out the excellent site, Confeederation, which tracks recent posts from candidate blogs from across the country for each of the 5 main parties. Worth a look - some of the blogs seem a little better than poor old Tony's.


I decided to investigate the web presence of the candidates in Vancouver Centre. Svend Robinson (NDP), Hedy Fry (LIB), Tony Fogarassy (CON) and Jared Evans (GRN) all have personal websites, Joe Pal (CHP) and Heath Campbell (Marijuana) have no personal sites (that I can find) but have profiles on the party site, John Clarke (Libertarian) has naught but a picture on the party site.

But only one candidate, Fogarassy, has a blog, at least as far as I can see. Alas, the only value his blog provides is (unintentional) humour value.

Here is the most recent post, in its entirety:


If you watched either of the debates the last two nights, I bet you'll agree with me that we're the party to beat! The other leaders know that we have momentum and so they tried to attack the calm, cool and collected Stephen Harper.

The simple fact is that we're the party talking about new ideas and about change. The NDP lives on old, recycled ideas (good for them for recycling, at least) and the Liberals certainly don't represent change.

I'm really excited about the last couple of weeks! Hope to see you out there on the campaign trail!"

The other posts are similar. Tony seems like a nice guy, and I appreciate that you have to watch what you say as a candidate, but if he really is a lawyer who graduated from the London School of Economics, I kind of hope he's not writing this blog himself. I don't know if anyone followed the hilarious 'Harriet Miers' spoof blog back during Bush's aborted attempt to put his personal lawyer (Miers) on the Supreme Court, but if Tony's blog reminds me of anything, it is that.

I'd say that at least he gets points for effort, and maybe the idea is that it is better to have blogged and lost (credibility), than never to have blogged at all, but I think this is more a case of some things being better left unblogged.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with voting decisions (although I didn't get the part about new ideas - I thought the Conservatives were the party of old ideas), I just thought it was funny.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Good Bye Budget Surplus, We Hardly Knew Ya

I think the most worrying thing I have read so far in this election was this post by Andrew Coyne. Coyne, downplaying concerns about the affordability of the Conservative platform, says,
"What the Tories can't say, but I will, is this: even if we do run a small deficit, we do not all turn into pumpkins. The Grits were earlier trying to claim, on the basis of who know's whose numbers, that the Tories would run a "$12-billion deficit." Even if that were true, which I doubt, that's $12-billion over five years, or a little more than $2-billion a year -- they could fund it out of the contingency reserve. And even if they did not, that's $2-billion, on a GDP in excess of $1.4-trillion. That's not even rounding error. It's rounding error on the rounding error.

I don't like deficits any more than the next guy -- less than most -- but let's get real here."

Or in other words, he doesn't like deficits any more than the next guy, but if they are *Conservative* deficits, he will downplay them.

I remember, back when the Reform party was new and shiny in the early 1990's, they were among the most intense deficit hawks in the country. Now, certainly the fiscal situation was drastically improved since then, but I am troubled by how far the Reform/Conservative party has moved from their old stance.

Some U.S. perspective,
"Since 1946 the Democratic Presidents increased the national debt an average of only 3.7% per year when they were in office. The Republican Presidents stay at an average increase of 9.3% per year. Over the last 59 years Republican Presidents have out borrowed Democratic Presidents by almost a three to one ratio. That is, for every dollar a Democratic President has raised the national debt in the past 59 years Republican Presidents have raised the debt by $2.87.

Prior to the Neo-Conservative take over of the Republican Party there was not much difference between the two parties debt philosophy, they both worked together to minimize it. However the debt has been on a steady incline ever since the Reagan Presidency. The only exception to the steep increase over the last 25 was during the Clinton Presidency, where he brought spending under control and the debt growth down to almost zero.

Comparing the borrowing habits of the two parties since 1981, when the Neo-Conservative movement really took hold, it is extremely obvious that the big spenders in Washington are Republican Presidents. Looking at the only Democratic President since 1981, Clinton, who raised the national debt an average of 4.3% per year; the Republican Presidents (Reagan, Bush, and Bush) raised the debt an average of 10.8% per year. That is, for every dollar a Democratic President has raised the national debt in the past 25 years Republican Presidents have raised the debt by $2.59. Any way you look at it Conservative Republican Presidents can not control government spending, yet as the graph above clearly shows, Clinton did."

Some Ontario perspective here.

Despite making severe cuts to social programs, the Harris government was only able to balance the books with the help of creative accounting and asset sales (often selling things for well below their value - see the highway 407 story for the worst example). Once these tactics had been used up, the debt resumed it's uphill march, despite Ontario (along with the rest of the continent) recording very strong economic growth over that period. By way of contrast, the Liberal federal government balanced the budget and then consistently ran surplusses over the same period.

The reasoning why neo-Conservative governments are prone to running large deficits is fairly straightforward. In the comments at Azerbic, Jay Currie notes that if the Conservatives take power, the various Conservative factions (social conservatives, red tories, libertarians, etc.) will then start battling with each other to get their agenda implemented. In order to keep the party together, the Conservatives will have to try and focus on areas of agreement.

For a number of reasons, running a deficit makes this a lot easier. For one thing, it allows the government to painlessly (except for the interest we pay for the rest of our lives) bring in a tax cut, which pleases all factions of the Conservative party. In fact, tax cuts are probably the only thing that all the Conservative factions agree on, which in itself goes a long way to explaining neo-Conservative deficits.

Another factor is that Conservatives generally have an anti-government mindset and often believe that government is just some black hole which sucks up money and does nothing. This leads them to believe they can make significant cuts to government and they won't have any impact. Once in power, much like your typical hapless reality show contestant, they realize that governing is harder (and more important) than it looks and they don't end up making the cuts they thought they would (or they do and people end up dying - see Walkerton).

This is compounded by the fact that Conservatives generally count rural and agricultural communities among their supporters and these communities tend to be both the strongest in their anti-government rhetoric and also in the fierceness with which they defend any government handouts they receive.

But surely, you say, Conservative supporters are fiscally conservative and will turn against their party if it runs deficits?

The practical response is to note that said fiscal conservatives, who can be counted on to scream loud and long if a left-wing government runs a deficit, have historically remained eerily silent in the presence of Conservative deficits. See the U.S. situation today, or go back to Coyne's column to get a taste of what is to come in Canada. Perhaps this is because these Conservatives would rather suffer deficits under a Conservative government than face an alternative party gaining power, or perhaps they don't mind if deficits are caused by tax cuts and only oppose deficits caused by social spending or perhaps many of these Conservatives are just blindly partisan. I don't know the reasons, but I do know what I have seen and heard, and especially what I have not seen or heard, both in Ontario and in the United States.

Furthermore, social conservatives are generally indifferent to fiscal issues. After all, if this world is just a test of our morals (and especially if you believe, as millions do, that the end is near) what difference does the budget surplus /deficit make?

Finally, there are a number of Conservatives (especially libertarians) who like deficits because they realize (correctly) that running deficits is one of the most effective ways to cripple government. As more and more tax dollars goes to interest payments, people see less and less benefit to their tax dollars, and support for government decreases. As an added benefit, when the deficit creating government is finally defeated, the new government that takes over will have to focus their energy on reducing the deficit, making unpopular cuts rather than implementing their agenda.

Obviously, I can't say for sure what will happen under a Conservative government. Maybe enough of that old Reform small c-conservatism remains and they will keep us in the black, but if I was betting man, I'd bet that a Conservative government which lasts more than 2 years will put us in deficit sooner or later.

Then we will see whether our hard-learned lesson about deficits (manifested as a fear of turning into pumpkins if we run a deficit) is still remembered, or if the deficit apologists will come out in force and we will begin the slide down the slippery slope into large Bush-style, day-of-reckoning-is-coming deficits.

Friday, January 13, 2006

East or South?

So the NDP released their platform on Wednesday and the Conservatives have finally released their platform as well. I read through them both (unlike the Liberal platform, they are actually readable), and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the NDP platform appeals to me a lot more.

In fact, based on the 4 platforms I've read (or tried to read, in the case of the Liberal one), I'll probably vote NDP this time around. In terms of policy, I rank the Greens and NDP pretty close and, ring or no ring, Svend Robinson is a much stronger candidate, in my opinion, than Jared Evans.

Some thoughts on the Conservative platform:

Positives: Their policies for making government cleaner (Standing Up for Accountability) probably go too far, but they are an improvement over the current situation.

I also support gradually reducing the GST, and the magnitude of their tax cuts seems reasonable.

Their health care policies (maintaining the status quo, while putting some pressure on the provinces to reduce wait times) are reasonable as well.

Increased support for the military (compared to levels for the last couple of decades is a good idea, and it makes sense to have an army presence in B.C. (primarily to respond to natural disasters) and the military certainly seems overdue for a rebalancing of more front line personnel, fewer officers. One thing I'm not sure about is whether putting so much money into expanding the number of troops in the army is the best use of resources, but I'm no military expert.

Extending Canada's claim to cover the entire fishing banks off the East Coast makes sense as well.

Negatives: Almost too numerous to list.

The income redistribution measures (GST cut, reductions to capital gains taxes, reduced corporate taxes, reduced taxes for seniors on retirement funds, money for parents with small children, transit tax deduction) are almost certainly going to provide far more benefit to the wealthy than the poor, exacerbating income inequality and likely causing further deterioration in Canada's overall and child poverty rates.

Electing Senators without reforming the Senate first is a bad idea. So is reforming the Senate for that matter.

One thing I would have hoped the Conservatives could be counted on to do would be to scrap the wasteful and out of jurisdiction 'regional development programs' which randomly distribute money to all parts of the country except Southern Ontario, but political expediency means they pledge to maintain these programs.

The obsession with crime (roughly 15% of the entire platform) is written as if criminals were inhuman demons of some sort and is filled with costly measures which will do little to reduce crime but will cause a lot of hardship, and will reduce judges ability to apply their discretion and which perpetuate a misguided war on drugs.

The environment - what environment? I almost missed the paragraph on the environment tucked in near the back of the platform. There are a couple of useful policies here such as a Clean Air Act to reduce Nitrogen Oxides and Sulphur Dioxide and penalties for bilge oil dumping. But mostly the message of the Conservative platform is that if environmental protection is important to you, don't vote Conservative.
Message received. I like how Harper has said that he wants to back out of Kyoto, and the platform says that the Conservative will develop a plan to deal with green house gases in coordination with other major industrial countries (uh, like all the major industrial countries that signed Kyoto?).

I'm no agricultural expert but the plan to make the wheat board voluntary sounds like a terrible plan to me, perfectly exemplifying the right-wing's total failure to understand the concept of collective action problems.

While there is some money for research, there is a lot of focus on established resource industries (forestry, agricultural, fishing, etc.), and very little on crucial industrial industries (Auto, Aerospace) or on future technological/cultural industries.

Nothing about electoral reform. Considering what our dysfunctional electoral system has put the various right wing parties through over the last 12 years, you'd think this might be on their list of priorities, but I guess either the dream of unfettered majority rule, or the realization that they are heavily outnumbered by left wing parties, prevents the Conservatives from pursuing this.

Some thoughts on the NDP platform:

Negatives: The usual, with respect to the NDP. I find the general antipathy towards private business and the misguided notion that profits are 'a waste' troubling. While I don't support tax cuts in all situations, I think that the federal government could afford to cut taxes further, and there are very few tax cuts in the NDP platform, although, to be fair, just maintaining the recently announced Liberal cut to the lowest marginal rate and increase in the basic personal exemption, is a significant commitment (which the Conservatives aren't making). The general approach of spending money on government programs in every area worries me, as does the NDP's record of opposing paying down the debt (although their proposed 'budget' does include some small amounts debt repayment.

Also, the focus on 'identifiable groups' such as women, the disabled, minorities, etc. seems excessive at times to the point of undermining the concept of all Canadians as equal individuals.

In addition, I see too much spending on students, especially since this spending doesn't seem to be targetted to prevent it from acting as a transfer of wealth from the lower, and lower middle class to the upper and upper middle class.

To some extent, the NDP shares the Conservative approach of spending more time on resource issues than on industrial / technological industries, although the NDP does have a broader focus, for sure.

Similarly, there are many areas where I think the NDP is trying throw money at everything rather than broadly redistributing income and then letting people decide for themselves what to spend on. For example, the idea of having the CMHC underwrite low interest mortgages for affordable housing seems unwise and overly bureaucratic.

Positives: A national pharmacare plan is one area where it makes sense for the federal government to be involved due to economies of scale and purchasing power. Similarly, opposing the 'evergreening' of patented medication will save on health costs.

The plan on climate change is a pretty good one, including support for the expansion of an east-west power grid, tougher emission requirements for cars and appliances and subsidies for green power. It would benefit from more use of market mechanisms such as carbon taxes or emissions trading systems.

Little things like requiring labelling of genetically modified foods also benefit the consumer.

Like the Conservatives, the NDP are proposing a number of sensible rules to make government appointments more merit based, to make government officials more independent and to strengthen oversight institutions like the auditor general. Unlike the Conservatives, the NDP also supports abolishing the Senate and bringing in electoral reform. I'm not that fussed on the the issue of abolishing the senate vs. leaving it in place as it is now but either approach is far superior to making it any one or more of elected, equal or effective.

Increasing the child tax benefit is good, simple policy.

Speaking more generally, a quick summary of the platforms would be to say that the NDP wants Canada to be more like Northern Europe:

* higher tax rate
* government sponsored child care
* low tuition
* significant income redistribution
* liberal social policies
* emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation over punishment and deterrence
* significant measures to protect the environment
* proportional electoral system
* commitment to international treaties and organizations
* stronger role of central government
* emphasis on collective fairness (fair trade, fair markets, etc.)
* little emphasis on military spending

while the Conservative want Canada to be more like the U.S.:

* lower tax rate
* no government child care
* lower level of government worries about tuition
* opposition to gay marriage
* war on drugs
* emphasis on punishment and deterrence over prevention and rehabilitation
* limited measures to protect the environment
* first past the post electoral system
* less party discipline
* more authority for parliament
* protection of private property in the constitution
* elected, equal, effective senate
* little or no redistribution of income to the poor
* emphasis on individual freedom (free choice, free trade, free markets, etc.)
* heavy emphasis on military spending

I don't have anything against America, it's a great country with great people, but, given a choice between living like a bit more like a Scandinavian or living like a bit more like an American, I know what choice I'd make.

The NDP have released a costing for their platform, it would be nice to see something similar for the other parties - anyone know if that is available?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


The Wonderdog catches my mood (as it relates to politics) at the moment,
"Only one question now remains. Should I bang my head against the wall until my skull cracks and my brain, sensing its only chance to escape the vile reality of Canada in the third millenium, leaks out onto the floor? Or should I go out into the street, find some worthless shill, knock him to the ground, and then kick him until he stops moving?

Which is a more appropriate response to the sorry state of our dominion?"

My mood wasn't helped by the leak (hey, that wasn't supposed to be released until after the election!) of the Liberal Platform.

I applaud the intentions of the platform writers who, I assume, tried to reach out to young Canadians by making the platform into a game. Alas, young Canadians are likely to prefer Grand Theft Auto to the Liberal game of 'Where's Policy?', the written equivalent of 'Where's Waldo'. As I understand it, from my abortive attempt to read the platform as a statement of policy intentions, the point of the game is to uncover concrete plans for what the Liberals would do if elected, by sifting through mountains of empty rhetoric, feel-good phrases, rehashes of previous announcements and self-congratulory historical cherry-picking.

Here's a sample, see if you can spot the policy proposal,
"The New Deal [for cities and communities] is about more than roads, water treatment plants, and modern transit systems. It is also about developing a vision that gives Canada's municipalities a seat at the national table as partners in our country's economic, cultural and social development. It is about ensuring a sustainable quality of life for all Canadians.

The New Deal is also a key component of the Liberal strategy to keep pace with the leaders in the global economy - to ensure that Canada is a winner in the worldwide competition for talent and investment. Statistically, economic performance is usually judged on a nation-to-nation basis. But today, competition is being waged increasingly among major metropolitan centres.

In a world in which talent, capital and ideas are globally mobile, it's Toronto and Montreal vs. Shanghai and Bangalore, Calgary vs. Houston, and Vancouver vs. San Francisco. In fact, virtually every program of every level of government is manifested in a community - programs that provide shelter to the disadvantaged; that support culture; that help the integration of new immigrants; that make our streets safer. The federal government contributes very significantly in these and other areas. To be most effective there must be close co-ordination among the federal, provincial, and municipal governments. So the New Deal is also about making this happen - about replicating the kind of practical co-operation illustrated by tripartite agreements pioneered in Vancouver and Winnipeg.

A Liberal government will build on its substantial set of existing financial and program commitments to ensure that the New Deal becomes a central component of our strategy to secure Canada's success.

To support environmentally sustainable infrastructure, the Liberal government committed to provide $5 billion to municipalities over five years. By 2009-10, this strategic investment in our cities and communities will be $2 billion, equivalent to half of the 10 cents per litre of the federal excise tax on gasoline. To date, agreements in respect of "gas tax" sharing and guidelines regarding eligible use of the funds have been reached with 12 provinces and territories. This long-term
commitment was recently bolstered by one-time spending of $800 million over two years to fund public transit systems in Canadian cities. The gas tax transfer is complemented by the full rebate of the Goods and Services Tax which will deliver more than $7 billion over 10 years to municipalities of all sizes."

Ha ha, I tricked you, there was no proposal of any policy in that passage. Or maybe there was. I don't know. This game is hard!

The Liberal platform weighs 85 pages. Go on, try to read it - I dare you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Can I Get That in Writing?

Against my better judgement, I watched about an hour of the debate yesterday. Afterwards, I tried to think of any new information I had gained and could only come up with Paul Martin's out of the blue announcement that the Liberals would remove the Federal Government's ability to use the notwithstanding clause. Maybe the lack of new information just reflects me paying a fair bit of attention to politics, I'm not sure.

I guess that doing a good job in the debate must be tough - the party leaders sure make it look tough, at any rate. On the other hand, I am sure that being the moderator of a debate can't be easy, yet Steve Paiken, who I always enjoyed watching on Studio 2 on TVO, made it look pretty easy, and the questions he asked were pretty well thought out, in my opinion.

But in terms of helping me decide who to vote for? - pretty much useless. Part of the trouble is that I think I am in the minority which prefers people to just tell it like it is rather than concealing everything in spin and talking points1. But only Duceppe (who has little on the line in the English debates) even approaches this style. I think Harper would like to, but he knows he'd get killed if he did. Meanwhile Martin and Layton have internalized the spinning approach to talking so that they probably don't even realize they are doing it anymore.

In the Globe, Scott Colborne (sub. only) is on the same wavelength and suggests that the leaders should watch Office Space and start acting like the main character in that movie does after being hypnotized (he starts telling everyone exactly what he thinks about everything). Of course the same straight talking relaxed character in the movie also embarks on a plan to embezzle millions of dollars so the leaders wouldn't want to take the analogy too far. Still, it would work for me, even though I think the media would spin whatever the straight-talking leader said into a big crisis and they'd be back to sounding like a pre-programmed drone in no time. It's also too bad that one of the most prominent politicians who succeeded with a straight-talking strategy - Mike Harris - was also one of the worst politicians (from a policy perspective) I've ever encountered. Sigh.

Anyway, all this is a distraction from the business of figuring out which party's policies would benefit the country most (damage the country least, if you're cynical) and who I should vote for. It sure would be helpful if the parties would put their proposed policies in writing, sometime before the election. At this point I'm getting close to voting Green, simply because they are the only party that has a platform (if I'm wrong please direct me to any newly released platforms I might have missed).

1 Of course, if you got people to self-identify, this would be a huge majority, but I think a lot of people are kidding themselves. Look for people who routinely write posts and make comments expressing shock and horror about what so and so said, often taking it out of context or harping on comments made years ago as the type of people who demand that politicians talk only in drone-mode for fear of setting loose the hounds of outrage.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Theodore ready: Outdoes Roy

Maybe it's just me, but this story from CP really cracked me up,
"MONTREAL (CP) - Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore got a shock Monday when a stranger in full hockey equipment jumped on the ice during a Montreal practice and shot a puck at him. ... Wearing skates, full gear and a plain white hockey jersey, the man skated in on the star goalie with a stick and a puck. He was poke-checked on his first attempt and Theodore then stopped a weak wrist shot to the high glove side. ...

"I didn't really know what was going on until the guy came on," a grinning Theodore said later. "He came at me with his head down so I just wanted to say `Welcome to the big boys.'

"I poke-checked him to say `You have to keep your head up.' When he came back, I though about going out of the net and not playing into his game, but then I thought he had the (courage) to go on the ice, so I let him have a free shot at me.

"He couldn't beat me. That's the main thing."

While waiting for the police to arrive, Raphael told reporters that while Theodore is a "great goalie," he didn't score because "I didn't have time."

You gotta love Theodore's 100% pure goaltender reaction to the situation.

I can't be the only one who is reminded of an old commercial from the 90's (80's?) featuring Patrick Roy in which some amateur comes on Roy on a breakaway, trips and falls but still manages to slide the puck past Roy. Roy then says (in a great Quebecois accent), "It's no fair, I wasn't ready". I guess in this case Theodore was ready, and it was left to the amateur to make excuses.

P.S. When CP is editorializing on how bad your wrist-shot is, that's not good.

Me and Wendelin

I have been tagged (twice) to list/describe 5 weird things about me. With 2 tags, and coming from a family where if someone calls you normal, it's treated as an accusation, I figured I'd better respond.

One of the most frequently noted weird things about me is the fact that, with a couple of minor exceptions, I don't eat vegetables - at all. But this isn't really news to longtime readers so I don't think it is fair to count that.

Instead, here's something else about me and eating. I like to save the best part of a food for last (again, with a couple of exceptions). I know, that sounds pretty normal, but I take it a little further than most people. For example, when you're eating a hamburger, quite clearly the bites on the outside are inferior because you're either dealing with too much bun or not enough bun. Not to mention the possibility of not getting any cheese or bacon! So I always eat around the outside of the burger first and then eat the middle. The only exception is when I am worried I might not be able to finish, in which case I eat straight across from one side, so that if I get full, the part left uneaten is the far edge. Similarly, hot dogs are eaten taking alternating bites from either end.

One exception to this rule is pizza. Obviously the part of the slice which is cut from the center of the pizza is superior to the crust, but pizza is just too awkward to eat crust-first.

OK, something else weird. The department from which I got my undergraduate degree was known of the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization (C&O for way shorter). No wait, that's not the weird part. OK, yes I acknowledge it is weird, but just let me finish. Anyway, as I was saying, the weird(er) part is how thoroughly I have integrated both of those concepts (Combinatorics and Optimization) into my life.

Take optimization for example. Now, most people intuitively realize that if you are planning to walk one block forward and then turn right and walk one block, you could save time by cutting across diagonally, but I can tell you that if the block is a perfect square, cutting a perfect diagonal is just over 29% shorter (1-sqrt(2)/2). OK, anyone who remembers the Pythagorean theorem could tell you that, but the point is, I didn't need to look that up, or do the math in my head - it's just memorized.

Similarly, if you are trying to walk somewhere on a downtown street grid (with traffic lights at most intersections), the optimal strategy is to choose a route which maintains a relatively equal number of blocks to go in either direction. For example if your destination is 6 blocks North and 3 blocks East, you want to go North when given a choice of direction until the number of blocks left in either direction is equal. This is beneficial because it increases the chances that no matter what the situation is with the traffic lights, you can cross in at least one direction. My girlfriend knows what I mean, when I say we should go a certain way to 'preserve the diagonal' (and yes, she does roll her eyes).

And it's not just a walking around thing. For example, common sense suggests that when the grocery store has a bunch of blocks of cheese (I don't eat vegetables so I eat more of everything else - especially cheese) all selling for the same price even though they are slightly different sizes, it makes sense to grab one of the bigger blocks. But is it really worth the effort to spend a few seconds to find one of the biggest blocks? Typically you might see blocks of cheese roughly 500g in size being sold for $5 each, with it taking about 10 seconds to find a bigger block, which is usually only about 20g larger. So if you figure that cheese costs $0.01/g and 10 seconds of label checking yields an additional 20g or $0.20, then the rate of return for this activity is roughly $1.20/minute, or $72/hour, so yes, it's worth it.
I do that sort of 'is it worth my time' calculation for lots of stuff. Anyway, I'm sure you get the point.

What else, well, I don't think it's really a weird thing to have various idiosyncratic personal superstitions and habits, even for an atheist like myself, but at the same time, each person's little superstitions are all weird in their own way, so here are couple of mine. Before I leave a basketball court, my last shot has to go in without touching the rim (this is normally referred to as a 'swish', but I'm usually playing on a beatup schoolyard which is lucky to have a rim, never mind a net, so the sound of the ball not hitting the rim is kind of hard to reproduce in print).

Another habit of mine is to always touch all the steps in a staircase. My legs are fairly long so I tend to climb two steps at a time, but I typically drag my back leg so that it just brushes against each of the steps that I'm skipping.

Next weird item: when playing video games, I prefer to play as a female character. I mean, let's face it, I can be a guy anytime. This is probably on my mind at the moment, because the game I've been playing lately (instead of blogging) doesn't allow you to play as anything other than the default male character. In fact, now that I think about it, the game ('Pirates!) is pretty sexist in general. All the authority figures are male, with women reduced to being barmaids or love interests (to some extent they've retained the typical video game sexism, and managed to add some typical hollywood sexism, but this aside could probably turn into a whole post (or graduate thesis) of its own, so I'll leave it at that). Aside from that though, it is quite good, and I'd recommend it (I know, if you're into that kind of game, you're probably busy with Civ 4 right now).

And the final weird thing about me, perhaps the weirdest of all, I write a blog ... about politics ... about Canadian politics - enough said.

I'll tag, Tall, Dark and Mysterious, Canadian Cynic, Odd Thoughts, Andrew Coyne and Gen X at 40

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Always consult a physician before responding to any tags or beginning any blogging program. Anything you write can not and might not be held against you in a [kangaroo] court of public opinion. By accepting this tag you accept and agree to abide by all real and or imaginary foregoing or aforementioned conditions.