Crawl Across the Ocean

Friday, October 31, 2008

I Wonder What That's All About...

"Levels of climate-warming methane -- a greenhouse gas 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide -- rose abruptly in Earth's atmosphere last year, and scientists who reported the change don't know why it occurred."

I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Might be Nothing, But...

So I voted again yesterday (and will vote yet again next week, it's a busy election season). The occasion for the vote was the Provincial byelection for the Downtown Vancouver riding vacated by Lorne Mayencourt as part of his quixotic attempt to be elected as a Conservative in downtown Vancouver during the federal election.

In addition to the downtown vote, a second byelection was held in the almost-downtown Fairview riding. Both were won by the NDP, but the results don't affect the balance of power and the newly elected members won't be around for long before the General Provincial Election next May.

The only thing that really piqued my interest in the results of the byelections was that the B.C. Conservative Party ran candidates in both byelections and got over 4% support in each riding.

I'd never heard of the B.C. Conservative party so I looked up their results from the 2005 election and saw that they obtained a mere 0.55% of the popular vote - which is pretty pitiful - *except* they only ran 7 candidates in the 79 ridings, so in those 7 ridings, they actually averaged about 6% support, getting close to 10% in the two Okanagan ridings they ran in. 10% support for a party that only ran 7 candidates and had 0 profile, organization or money to spend.

So I don't want to read too much into byelection results, but if the B.C. Conservatives are able to get 4% of the vote in downtown Vancouver, how much support could they get across B.C. if they run candidates in areas (like the Okanagan, home to Stockwell Day) where the Federal Conservative party gets over 50% of the popular vote regularly. Especially considering that these areas are filled with clueless right wingers angry about the carbon tax but unwilling to vote for the NDP?

The polls suggest a close election battle between the Liberal and the NDP. A Conservative party that manages to get itself organized long enough to run candidates in a reasonable number of ridings (30+?) could potentially average 10% in the areas they run and could split off enough Liberal votes to elect the NDP in a number of ridings.

The possibilities look similar to the 1996 election when the B.C. reform party split enough of the right wing vote to allow the NDP to form a majority with less than 40% of the popular vote (the Liberals got 42% and Reform got 9%). It's funny that B.C.'s ruling conservative party (the Liberals) could end up losing an election because of their name. And ironic that that outcome (which I only throw out as a possiblity, not a likelihood) could have been avoided had Campbell not set the absurdly high 60% threshold for passage of electoral reform in the referendum held in conjunction with the last election. I might just have to make a donation to the (B.C.) Conservative cause...

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Iceberg, Right Ahead

I remember how, just a few years ago, I'd be in the grocery store and even carrying my big empty backpack, I still needed to quickly interject to prevent the cashier from unnecessarily bagging my groceries.

I was at the grocery store the other day, and they charge 5 cents for every bag they give you (if you ask for them), but it's a rare shopper who use any.

The boat is turning, very slowly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tell 'Em Ed

Ed Broadbent makes the case for updating our archaic election system.

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Random Thought for the Day

By 1988, we had created a society which had so many people so worried that 'Don't Worry Be Happy' spent two weeks at number one on the billboard charts and won the Grammy for song of the year. Things have only gotten worse since then.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Federal Election 2008 - A Few Quick Thoughts

"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?"

That's what I wrote after the last election two years ago. I guess we're about 85% of the way through the change now as the Conservatives have advanced their siege of the country's cities by a few ridings here and there.

Two possible wildcards over the next couple of years that could reverse the glacial trend currently underway: 1) The economy. It doesn't look good for the next couple of years and that could well rebound on the governing party. 2) The environment. Not as likely to have an impact in the next couple of years but still, next time we have a strong El Nino it could blow far past the previous one in 1998 and cause some truly hot/strange weather which won't help a party (the Conservatives) that acts as if it thinks climate change is a myth.

I thought Harper might echo Parizaeu during his speech and complain that they could have won their majority if it hadn't been for the immigrants and the francophone vote. I guess it wasn't really all that likely - maybe when he retires.

Where to from here?

The Conservatives didn't really have a platform, aside from a few stupid ideas such as lowering taxes on fossil fuel use. One hazard of this election result is that the truly horrible copyright legislation the Conservatives proposed last session of parliament in order to please the American lobbyists is now likely to pass and unnecessarily drag down our economy and complicate our lives. I do hope that they keep their promise on having Canadians out of Afghanistan by 2011.

Can the Conservatives keep chasing the Quebec nationalists without alienating their rural anglophone supporters in the rest of the country? Or will they refocus on the 905 region which could also provide them enough extra seats to form a majority? Can they survive the coming choice between raising taxes, running deficits or cutting spending?

I hope the animosity between the Conservatives and Newfoundland doesn't derail the Lower Churchill Hydro Project, arguably the most important initiative currently underway in Canada aside from the doomed mission in Afghanistan.

The Liberals seem likely to elect Ignatieff as their new leader and swing to the right in an attempt to regain the ground they have lost to the Conservatives over the last two elections. Bob Rae would be a big mistake for them politically in my opinion - it is not the Urban Centre voters they need to regain, those folks are almost all they have left!

The NDP continue to somehow maintain strength in both progressive urban ridings and blue collar rural ridings while gradually increasing their overall strength. I don't really see much changing from them over the next couple of years. The likely rightward shift of the Liberals will open up more room for them.

Although the NDP did not win as many seats as Ed Broadbent did in 1988, it's worth noting that the 1998 election was fought on the issue of free trade which likely worked to the benefit of the NDP as that is is an issue where they have a clear position on one side, a side which has strong local constituencies.

More importantly, in 1998, the NDP had no seats east of Ontario. As of now, they still have a base in B.C., in Ontario and in Saskatchewan (where they remain a political force despite not winning many seats in the last few federal elections) but they also have a historic first seat in Quebec, as well as seats in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland - seats which, while not numerous, were won by large majorities, which bodes well for their future.

The Green party, which had levelled off at about 4.5% in 2006, the same as their 2004 showing, pushed further upward to over 6%, almost 7% this time. I haven't seen a tally but they can't be too far off having a million entirely unrepresented Canadians supporting them across the country this time. Meanwhile, 15,000 voters send Andre Arthur back to parliament.

With a less honourable leader likely running the Liberal party next time the Greens may be hard pressed to hold their level of support, although a more right wing, less environmentally friendly Liberal party (a near certainty for next time around) may well push voters like myself back to the Greens.

Speaking of a million unrepresented Green Party voters, I see that in my own riding (Vancouver Centre), it looks like Hedy Fry will win with roughly 1/3 of the votes, meaning that 2/3 of the people here voted for someone else, but their votes count for nothing - a result I find ridiculous, regardless of the fact that I voted for Fry myself. I also see that Adrienne Carr won almost 20% of the vote for the Green Party in my riding which is a pretty good showing for her, probably the best Green support outside of Elizabeth May, and maybe Mike Nagy in Guelph as well.

On the CBC, Peter Mansbridge talked about how great it was to hear from the online community while ignoring the one point consistently raised by the online community and never addressed head on by the CBC panelists, which was the desire for reform of the electoral system - although I did pick up a few offhand comments about the 'outdated' and 'archaic' system from some of their more 'technical' analysts.

Still on the topic of the CBC coverage, my penultimate comment is that David Herle is pretty sharp, as is Ujjal Dosanjh.

On a final note, I've never liked Rex Murphy more than when he ably defended his use of the word elegiac in front of the sophomoric Peter Mansbridge who should be ashamed rather than proud of his ignorance. Rex also made an obvious, but nonetheless worthwhile point that despite not having a formal majority of the seats, Harper has a de facto majority for at least the next two years since nobody will want to trigger another election. He might even deserve it, given what may be coming.

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Vancouver Centre - Election Day

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Peterborough Riding - One Week Before the Election

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Election

Sadly, I haven't and won't have much time for commenting on the election.

So in short, my preference this election is for the Liberals. I see Stephane Dion as an intelligent person with integrity who shares my primary concerns (environmental issues, child poverty) and the green tax shift is very smart policy in my opinion. Watching the debate, I get the sense that Dion is also aware of the threat posed by peak oil, realizing that moving away from dependence on oil and gas for our energy needs is the key to our propserity going forward.

Second choice would be Green and then NDP third, although I think voting Green instead of voting for the greenest mainstream leader we're likely to see for a while is counter-productive unless one is a very hardcore Green.

Strategically, the best plan for progressive voters is probably an 'anything but conservative one', voting for whoever has the best chance of defeating the local Conservative one in your own riding. Luckily, for me in Vancouver centre, the best chance to beat the Conservatives is the Liberal candidate, Hedy Fry - so that's one way at least, that our archaic election system won't mess with my vote this election.

Some of the reasons I don't want to see the Conservatives in power:

1) The environment. The Conservatives have a mindset where environmental protection is in opposition to economic growth and economic growth takes precedence. I don't sense that the Conservative party believes in the threat from climate change or has any real intention of trying to do anything about it other than the minimum it can get away with. As an Alberta based party, they can't really be expected to lead the move away from dependence on fossil fuels either.

2) Iraq. If the Conservatives had been in power during the run-up to the Iraq war Canada would have joined in. Who knows what could be around the corner in terms of potential ill-advised military adventures in the next few years. Electing a Conservative party would increase the chances of Canada joining into such a venture.

3) Lack of conservatism - with a small 'c'. Someone with a conservative mindset generally wants to respect tradition, to limit growth in the power of the government, and to respect the checks and balances built into the political system. However, in my opinion, the Conservative party wishes to remake this country into one much more similar to the U.S., as opposed to the 'second tier socialistic country' (in Harper's words) that it is now (in their opinion).

But in pursuing this goal the Conservatives see the traditional institutions, the checks and balances as things that stand in their way. So, far from wanting to reinforce the strength of Canada's independent institutions that check the government's power and to work within the system, the Conservative's want to weaken those institutions and remove anything that prevents them from remaking the system as they wish. This was expressed by Harper in a rare moment of candour when he referred to how the courts and the media and the Senate and the civil service would prevent them from fully implementing their desired plans.

In government we have seen the Conservative party at war with the media, at war with Elections Canada, in a battle with the nuclear energy safety regulator and further Conservative government will lead, in my opinion, to more attacks on and more weakening of, the independent institutions that provide a check on the government.

4) Income inequality - My belief is that a reasonable equitable distribution of income is one of the primary foundations of a country that people want to live in. Conservative policies, in particular tax cuts for which the vast majority of the benefits go to the wealthy, tend to work against income equality, which I see as corrosive to the health of the country over the medium to long term.

5) Fiscal management - The Conservative party is made up of many strands and one of the few things they agree on is that they want to take power and they don't want to pay for government services. Wanting to take power leads them to increase spending, and not wanting to pay for government services leads them to cut taxes. The result is deficits, which we see time and time again from right wing governments. Given the still substantial public debts the country has, we need to keep paying down the debt further as quickly as reasonably possible and the Conservative party is the one I least trust to do that.

This is just off the top of my head, so I'm probably missing things, but that's a rough approximation of where my thought are for this election campaign.

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