Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lower the Voting Age

So, on we go with ideas to improve our dear country. This one is a bit strange and I'm not even sure I agree with it entirely. However, there are really good reasons to lower the voting age to 16. First, why sixteen? Well, at sixteen you are old enough to have sex (even by Tory standards) and drive a car. You are clearly able to make big decisions. However, that's not why I want the voting age to be sixteen. Political scientists make a big deal of the fact that voter turnout among young people has fallen dramatically over the last thirty years. I would argue part of the reason is the changing nature of early adulthood. It used to be that a small minority of the population went to university. Those that did go off to school usually went to the closest school to them. The University of Toronto served Toronto. Now, students spread out across the country and the world. This means they are removed from the place in which they grew up. They are removed from their local community. A community where they may have been involved. I make a habit of trekking back to Toronto to vote in elections. I feel much more a part of my riding in Toronto-Danforth than I do here in Kingston. However, many students won't bother with the trip. Particularly, if the first election they have a chance to vote in happens when they are at school. By lowering the voting age to sixteen we would allow people to register to vote and vote for the first time while in high school. This would allow them to vote in areas they care about, for candidates they might know something about. Would all sixteen year olds necessarily be informed voters? No. But they wouldn't all vote either. However, I firmly believe that by starting the process earlier we would make voting part of their routine. If people can vote for the first time when they still live at home, they will be around their parents who are far likelier to vote than their peers at university. The parents, we hope, will have a positive impact. I think it is worth a shot. I don't think there is high possibility that sixteen and seventeen year olds will be coerced, nor do I think that a bunch of people who wouldn't know Stephen Harper if he took their money and used it for federal election ads are going to start voting en masse. I think there is low risk and high reward on this one. Did I just come out in favour of electoral reform? Why yes, yes I did.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Where's the News?

The Canadian news scene is fairly quiet these days. The Saskatchewan election has one interesting story and it appears to be over. The Conservatives seem safe for the next little bit federally. The Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador elections were confirmations of the status quo. The media continues to write off Stephane Dion. The Democratic primaries seem to be all but over. The Republican primaries are such a mess, a Ron Paul victory wouldn't surprise me at this point (I'm not saying it's going to happen). Albertans are complaining about oil taxes. Okay, the taxer changed but really, "Albertans oppose tax hike" is not exactly a shocking headline. The Star is editorializing about pay-day loans and the rising dollar killing the economy. The Globe thinks everything is rosy. Iraq is Iraq. Afghanistan is Afghanistan. I suppose the whole FEMA "press" conference thing is funny but not surprising considering the Bush administration's track record. California's burning. Okay, it's worse this year. Is it a tragedy? Of course. Was it predictable? Of course. Wake me up when something happens?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sorbara's Out!

Didn't see this coming. Get out while you're on top, I guess. Strange. Really didn't see this coming.

Skinning Differs From Decapitation

As I've mentioned previously the trend lately among former proponents of MMP is to now come out in favour of STV. I really shouldn't care. However, I find the position completely inconsistent. There are few to any similarities between STV and MMP. Let's do a breakdown of the arguments for and features of each one (I'll leave the counter-arguments out, for the sake of discussion):

MMP: - Provides proportionality while maintaining some level of direct representation.
- Allows voters to distinguish between party and person.
- Fairly consistent with current system.
- Accurately represents small, often single issue, parties
- Encourages coalition building
- Encourages diversity (I didn't say the arguments had to be true)

STV: - Allows voters to indicate preference
- Encourages moderation of views
- Multiple representatives
- All members are equal (formula focuses on each candidate just meeting threshold)
- All members still locally accountable

What is notable in this comparison is these systems do not share very many features. STV is not proportional (the BC Greens objected to this point). MMP creates two types of differently abled politicians. MMP (the Ontario model) maintains the one riding, one member system. STV focuses on multi-member districts. STV has no mechanism that could be used to increase diversity. MMP rewards small, single issue parties. STV rewards large brokerage parties that can appeal to a broad base. The only things these two systems have in common are the features that exist in the current system and the fact that they are decidedly not the current system. If advocacy for reform is blind to their own proposals, we have a problem. If they truly like both of these systems what common feature are they advocating?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

When are they going to get to acceptance?

Watching the proponents of MMP fumble around with the referendum results is becoming a joke. There is a strong mixture of anger and denial. The denial came today from some hearty academics. The conclusions from this article is that if people had been told only good things about MMP they would have voted for it. Here we go: I propose a system of government that will have incomparable immediate economic growth, rapid decision making, high levels of security, low levels of crime and strong social cohesion. Do you agree? Well, probably. But you might not if you realized you were voting for fascism. I'm not comparing MMP to fascism. I'm talking about the ridiculous nature of that line of argument. Of course, if you talk about a system only in positives without any substantive detail people are going to agree. In a democracy, however, we have something called debate. This allows people to see the whole picture and make a decision. As I've argued before, the results of the referendum were predictable based on a reasonably well informed population. Knowing the exact make up of the citizen's assembly would not have changed the results.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Build Up, Not Out

Part two of my series of ideas whose times have come. Today we look at what should be on the lips of every environmentalist in North America: Urban Density. If you want to know why pollution rates here are so much higher than in Europe look no further than our sprawling cities. If we are to improve our environmental sustainability, we need to make our cities more dense. Now, when I speak of density I don't mean St. James' Town. I don't want concrete tower after concrete tower that obscures all light. We need to build towers where they are possible. One of the best places to increase density is parking lots. Flat, strip mall style parking lots are a blight. A condominium tower, or a bunch of townhouses would look much better and increase density. You don't need to touch an inch of green space to do it (and nor should you). There is a plan in Toronto to replace the two story facades which dominate major streets in the downtown core with facades of up to six stories. No major difference in look, but way more space to live or work. Density also means improving urban transit systems and avoiding tax policies that encourage sprawl (like the land transfer tax just passed by the city of Toronto). We need to make it easy to live downtown.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Engage the World

As it appears a federal election is not in the immediate future, I have decided to begin a series of posts on how the Liberal Party (or any party really) can move Canada towards a brighter tomorrow. The first relates on Canada in the globalized world.

It saddened me greatly when the last federal debate included no mention of foreign policy. The world matters. How we engage the new world which has been emerging over the last twenty years will shape the Canadian story. We can either seize upon our potential or we can mire ourselves in endless internal squabbles. Engaging the world is the new cause célèbre of my university. Unfortunately, it is little more than a cause. There are no actions to back up those words. We, as a country, require action. Here's a few starters:

Expand Student Exchanges
: This is an idea I've mentioned before. I am horribly biased on the subject, having just completed a wonderful exchange in Sweden. However, this is still a good idea. Canada should knock on the door of the ERASMUS program. ERASMUS was conceived as a way of uniting Europe by providing fora for cultural exchanges. Why can't it unite the world? We shouldn't stop with Europe either. Why not be a leader and set up similar systems with our OAS, Commonwealth, Francophonie and APEC allies? Not only does it provide Canadian students a chance to see the world and learn from it, but it will make our universities centres of international learning. If we are to compete in a globalized economy we must have workers who understand the world and a world that thinks about Canada. This can either be an initiative of the federal government or an initiative of the provinces or both.

Fix Immigration and then Expand it: Our immigration system is broken. We go around the world recruiting doctors and engineers and end up with taxi drivers and convenience store operators. We need to ensure that all immigrants have access to the credentials they have already earned. Where there are gaps in knowledge we need to develop programs to fill those gaps, not start from square one. I said during the leadership that immigrant success was one of my major reasons for supporting Gerard Kennedy. I said after the leadership that I hope M. Dion adopts the policy. I am still hopeful. Once we have fixed this problem we need to increase the number of immigrants who are coming to this country. The Western world faces a major demographic crisis with the retirement of the baby boom and immigration is the best way to combat it.

Increase Trade Relations with the Developing World
: Canada and Canadian companies should be on the ground in developing countries building capacity and creating sustainable growth. We need to reach out to the developing world as equals and trade with them freely and openly. Which leads to the next point.

Support the G77 in the Doha Round: Canada has a moral imperative to reduce its agricultural subsidies and encourage our allies to do the same. A level playing field in agriculture would be the first step to getting Africa on its feet. Let's stop complaining about how evil the WTO is and start working to make it better.

Reduce Landing Fees at Canadian Airports: If we want tourism we need to make it easier to fly to Canada. We need to eliminate the fees which make it cheaper to fly to Buffalo and rent a car to Toronto then fly to Toronto. We have a huge federal surplus, let's spend it on making Canada's infrastructure open for business.

Eliminate Visa Restrictions on Allied States: The restrictions on travelers from the Baltics in particular is an absurd post-cold war relic. NATO allies should be able to visit for a few days without having to get a visa.

Increase the size of our Foreign Service
: Simple. More embassies. More consulates. More people on the ground promoting Canada.

More to come...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Thoughts

Okay, some thoughts on the world around us:

- Pauline Marois' proposal is racist. It is discriminatory, unconstitutional and bad for Quebec. Welcome to Quebec, where you don't count! I don't understand Quebec nationalism and I never will. Tous les citoyens de notre pays ont les mêmes droits irrespecte de langue. Les anlglophones et allophones a le droit d'être députés dans l'Assemblie Nationale. Si les Québecois et Québecoises ne voudraient pas électer les personnes qui ne parle pas le français, comme Mme. Marois pense, ils peuvent voter seulement pour les francophones (I think I botched horribly the conditional in that last sentence, but you'll get my drift).

- Turkey's war on the PKK is big news. Huge news. As I see it, Turkey would be justified at this moment to invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty. People from Iraq launched an attack in Turkey. This is similar in circumstance if not in scale to the attacks of 9/11 which caused the US to invoke Article 5. It is not as impossible as you may think. Yes, there are NATO troops in Iraq but they will tell you that the government of Iraq is sovereign. Therefore, there would be no problem with NATO invading a sovereign Iraq in order to defend Turkey. I don't think they will invoke Article 5, but they could. That is a scary prospect. Even if they don't, Iraq is starting to reach the ultimate nightmare scenario that opponents of this war discussed in 2002.

- Stéphane Dion made a mistake in not bringing down Harper. He looks weak. He is now forced to make more of these decisions on every substantive bill from here on. Every time he decides to support the government he weakens the image of the Liberal Party. He blurs the significant differences between the two parties and strengthens the NDP. It was a mistake. Leaders are allowed to make mistake. If Dion thinks that the upcoming by-elections in English Canada will bolster the party, than perhaps the gambit is worthwhile. I don't think we can spin holding on to seats as a move forward.

- The situation in Pakistan should worry everyone. The strange dance between Musharraf and Bhutto which seems to only be happening to somehow strengthen the current regime may lead to civil strife. Pakistan is a nuclear power. Pakistan has a large extremist population. Let the two never mix.

- The US electoral system is wackier every day. Michigan has been disenfranchised by the Dems. Stephen Colbert is running for the nomination of BOTH parties in South Carolina. The parties need to put all their primaries on one day (or at very least one weekend like the LPC). End the hegemony of New Hampshire and Iowa. However, I guess the fair vote people don't mind, the primaries are PR based. The caucuses are kind of like STV.

- I know nothing about Saskatchewan provincial politics. I do know their is an election on. I also believe Saskatchewan will be one of the major fronts of the next federal election. Stéphane Dion needs to start pounding the Tories on the wheat board.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Let's Go!

Stephane Dion made it very clear the conditions he wanted to support the throne speech. Harper has refused to meet those conditions. Time to bring down this government.

On the Federal Election

I stand by my prediction from January that a federal election will take place in or around American Thanksgiving. That doesn't mean I want an election. I just think it's going to happen. When nominated candidates start saying stuff like this, it usually means there's an election brewing. Also, isn't it a shame that Ms. Coyne has a snowball's chance of getting into the house. I'll vote for her again but I think my neighbours still prefer the Jack-in-the-box. I make no judgment on whether or not we should go to the polls until I've seen the throne speech.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday again

Quick thoughts to start the week:

- Queen's homecoming is over and done with. It is being heralded as a success. Even the usually hyper-critical Kingston Whig-Standard seems pleased. I would describe Aberdeen St. as ordered chaos this year. I enjoyed myself. A good last homecoming as a student. If you have no idea what I'm talking about.... well, look it up.

- Chretien doesn't like Paul Martin. WOW! Stop the presses! Or I guess more appropriately start the presses. YAWN! Only Chretien could create a media frenzy while recovering from heart surgery.

- Greenhouse gas emissions stabilized in 2004-5. Hey, it's better than a kick in the teeth.

- Harper wants a new press theatre. Umm... I'm so glad we're spending two million dollars on that instead of keeping the trains running in Toronto. I have no love for Mr. Miller but... one cent, now! And, um, quick question, don't you think the media would have asked how you built the new press theatre considering it's for the press? Harper's getting Cheney-like.

- So Miller's plans to save money are going beautifully. First, he had to backtrack on the closing of community centres. Now, the librarians union has successfully for breach of contract or some such meaning the city is going to have to pay for the librarians without getting anything in return. Shelve the plans to redo city hall? Nah. He'd rather have your local arena sponsored by MasterCard. I actually don't mind the private-public partnership but I can't believe that sits well with Miller's Dipper supporters.

- Harper's still right on the environment. Punishing the developed world transfers the problem. It doesn't fix it. We need Harper's strategy with Dion's timetable and we need it yesterday. If this election is about the environment, don't expect this blogger to lead the Liberal charge. Don't get me wrong, I still intend to vote Grit (climate change is not my top issue) but I can't defend the Liberal environmental policy.

- More on this later, but STV is not a good idea. It's also not PR. If you want PR don't vote for STV. You will be sorely disappointed. Note Ireland's most recent election where the governing party increased its popular vote and lost seats. The principle opposition saw their support go up 5 percentage points and gained 12 percentage points more seats. No, this does not mean I oppose all forms of electoral reform. Once again I support a system of majoritarian run-off as is used in France, Louisiana and Texas. Maintenance of local democracy with increased legitimacy. Not only that but you might get to vote twice! When STV failed I distinctly remember people saying "oh, well they should have proposed MMP." Now that MMP has crashed and burnt...

Andrew Coyne is on a warpath

So, Andrew Coyne is mad as hell. See, he liked MMP. MMP lost. Now, he's trying to figure out a way for him to be right and not be against popular opinion. First, he tried to claim that the people were cowed by Islamophobic propaganda. This is of course absurd. First, there was no mention of a possible Islamic party on behalf of the No MMP campaign and almost none in the media (a brief half-mention in the Globe). Secondly, this makes no sense considering the plethora of Muslim candidates elected in ridings that rejected MMP. Ontarians are not bigots. Finally, I can guarantee that the Canadian Islamic Congress was not motivated by Islamophobia when they rejected MMP.

Now Mr. Coyne has changed tack. He's now decided that in fact MMP won. Well, after all it got almost the same percentage as the premier. Well, if we're going to play games with the numbers, let's play games. Under FPTP the Liberals won a plurality of the votes in a majority of the ridings. How did MMP fare? They won 5 ridings out of 107. Reslicing the pie doesn't change the result. He also levels the ridiculous criticism that the low voter turnout invalidates the result. Every Canadian has a rigt not to vote. If you want to change that, bring in mandatory. I think it may be a debate worth having (I'm actually not sure where I stand on that one). If 48% of Ontarians didn't think it worth their time to vote, all we can interpret is that they didn't think voting was a priority. There are millions of reasons why people don't vote. We can't judge it to be any one of them with any certainty. However, their absence does not invalidate the result. Bad things happen when we allow the absent to delegitimize the actions of the present (see the Weimar republic). No one was disenfranchised.

He's also claiming that people were actively misinformed. I stand by every statement I made regarding MMP. The rise of fringe parties has taken place across Europe. It has been fostered by PR systems. It is not surprising that France and the UK (who use non-PR systems) remain the two major countries without a major Christian Democratic or Green movement. France also has had the most success in rejecting the right-wing nationalist movements that have swept Europe. Marie le Pen has lost the popularity that he once had and has remained out of power. Meanwhile, PR based countries of seen the inclusion of nationalist movements in government from the Netherlands to Denmark. The Belgians are still trying to form a government while a Flemish nationalist party threatens the destruction of Belgium. Not in Germany you say? Well, there are laws against nationalist parties in Germany. Seems that they had a bad experience with nationalism back in the day. MMP wouldn't have stopped the kind of xenophobia that has spread across Europe. The Swedes who use MMP (a slightly different version but built on the same principles) have seen a fringe nationalist party gain prominence all across their regional councils. Analysts predict they will be in the Riksdag after the next election (they were just under the threshold last year). This would throw the normally stable Riksdag into chaos. The carefully built coalitions would have to realign in order to accommodate the new party. In other words, they would get power, king-maker power. These new parties are not popular movements. They represent a tiny portion of the population and receive a disproportionate influence.

The rise of a Maori party in New Zealand is not a good thing as some people claim. The fact that there are Maori voters in New Zealand who feel they can only be represented by fellow Maoris is a failure. Integration is important to the success of any minority group. Note: integration not assimilation. There is a major difference between the maintenance of a distinct culture and the feeling that no one outside your culture can possibly represent you. This is the failure Canada has felt so profoundly in French Canada. The rise of the Maori party should be viewed in the same light as the rise of the PQ and BQ in Canada. A failure of political leadership. The line of argument that sees the rise of an ethnically based party as a success is the same argument that supports the segregation of our schools and the division of our country.

I said what I said during the campaign, not to scare people, but because I believe them and want to share my beliefs with my fellow citizens. Civic duty propelled me. It is insulting in the utmost to insinuate that I was acting out of some sort of malicious intent. I'm a university student. I was not trying to hold on to my own power (as Mr. Ferguson et al. may claim). If you disagree with me, fine. Don't call me a self-interested, bigoted liar.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What We Learned

Okay so here's what we know from Ontario's election:

1. Making bad promises will hurt you a lot more than not keeping good ones.

2. Shane Jolley should be the next leader of the Ontario Greens. The candidate from Owen Sound backed up his nationwide best showing in the federal election with an impressive second place finish in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. He got a higher voting percentage than Elizabeth May in London!

3. Howard Hampton needs to retire. His speech last night was, at best, unscripted at worst, horrible. I'm not talking about whether or not you agree with him on substance. It was a long rambling incoherent speech. At the beginning he sounded like Martin making his exit in 2006 (talking about people who had been there since the beginning etc.) then at the end he says "oh, by the way, I'm staying around." He shouldn't. Ontarians are never going to fall in love with the man from Fort Francis.

4. Drawing on that point, Ontario will not have a leadership race until after the next federal election. This has got to be in the minds of John Tory and Howard Hampton when they didn't resign last night. The last thing they want to do is distract their party faithful during an election campaign.

5. Ontarians don't care about provincial politics. That is the lesson from the low voter turnout last night. It is not because of the electoral system. You can not blame the precipitous decline in voter participation in the last fifty years on something that has been CONSTANT. It defies all logic. Please, electoral reform advocates, do not quote me the one poorly compiled academic paper that says there is a higher participation rate in PR systems. I don't care how Belgians voted in the middle of the 19th century. It tells me nothing about voting patterns today. A whopping 43% of Germans turned out to elect members to the European Parliament using... wait for it... MMP. Electoral systems have NOTHING to do with turnout.

6. We have lost touch with the local electorate. There were two huge upsets that almost happened last night. Namely, Halton and Timmiskiming-Cochrane. Neither the party in trouble nor the party challenging realized these were races. The pundits also completely missed on predictions for close races. London-Fanshawe is a tight three way race? Sid Ryan is going to win Oshawa? Ottawa Centre is close? John Tory has a chance in Don Valley West? Donna Cansfield was in trouble? We need to get reporters on the ground again. The most reliable source for information is the board over at electionprediction.org in spite of the posters' horrible biases.

7. John Tory should never be allowed within twenty feet of a campaign war room.

I think my school paper just broke a story

Or did this morning... I'm a little behind on my posting. Here's the story from the Queen's Journal. Yep. A tory campaign manager literally cursing John Tory.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why MMP Failed

Now that I have access to Elections Ontario's riding by riding referendum results, it is time for some analysis. We need to start by debunking some myths about why this referendum failed.

Myth #1: McGuinty and the Liberals wanted it to fail.

This is absurd. It is absurd on so many levels. First, why on earth would prominent Liberal cabinet ministers (Smitherman, Bryant, Gerretsen et al.) be working on the pro-MMP side if the Grits were plotting its demise? Second, there is NO proof for this. Zero. Don't talk about the threshold which was copied almost verbatim from BC. It is a) not McGuinty's and b) in keeping with the Constitution and the principles of the Clarity Act. This kind of conspiracy is usually relegated to late night talk shows.

Myth #2: The media ignored the issue.

This is blatantly false. Almost every newspaper and most columnists in the province put out an editorial. Radio talk shows spent hours debating its merits. The blogosphere was saturated. The debate was out there. People just had to listen. A major television debate (outside TVO) was the only thing missing. Given the low ratings of the leaders' debate I wouldn't call this all that important.

Myth #3: The No MMP campaign killed it.

Our Lilliputian efforts (all $12,000 of it) may have helped to shape the debate (I'll come to that later) but we did not cause a landslide. I'd love to say we did, but we didn't.

Myth #4: The information campaign left people uninformed and they voted out of uneasiness.

This on the surface seems like a reasonable hypothesis. The information campaign was pathetic (see my last post). However, it is disproved by the results that we got from across the province. In order for this theory to work, you must assume that information was distributed relatively equally across the province. Everyone received the same useless pamphlet. Almost everyone has access to the internet somewhere so they could view the website. In other words, people should vote the same way across the province. There should be no noticeable difference between ridings. In fact support for MMP ranged from below 30% to 59.2% (Trinity-Spadina). That kind of thirty point spread indicates to me that a large number of people knew exactly what they were voting on or at very least had formed an opinion. Even if you assume that people in the large cities were better informed due to higher media and campaign saturation, you still can't explain why people in wealthy (and therefore more likely educated) urban ridings rejected MMP. It is also worthwhile to note that people voted predictably. Steve Paikin nailed on The Agenda when he surmised that the pro-MMP ridings were in downtown Toronto. How did he know they weren't in Thunder Bay or Ottawa? The answer is the reason MMP failed.

MMP failed because it didn't resonate with what Ontarians value in their politics. In my first post on MMP I discussed the principles behind both systems and how the choice was basically a philosophical one. The results confirm that hypothesis. First, let's look at who voted for MMP. The ridings are: Trinity-Spadina, Toronto-Danforth, Beaches-East York, Davenport and Parkdale-High Park. First off, let's recognize that the four of these ridings are NDP strongholds and the fifth (Davenport) has been on the Dipper wish list for some time now. What do these ridings have in common that makes them vote NDP and for MMP (unlike the Northern NDP ridings which rejected en masse)? First, they believe that political decisions are moral decisions. No, not in the bible belt sense but in the compassion for your fellow human beings sense. People in these ridings believe that everyone should have an equal chance. The argument that FPTP is unfair resonated here. Secondly, they are imbued with pluralist views. What is common about these ridings is their diversity. The whitest is probably Beaches-East York but even then, there is significant diversity. There is along with that diversity a fierce belief in multiculturalism. There is a pluralist belief that society is best when it includes everyone in the discussion. This pushed them in favour of getting small parties more say in the legislature. Now, to a certain extent these views are present everywhere in the province but they are especially present and relevant in voting behaviour in the old city of Toronto. In other words, MMP was in keeping with the values that drive voters in these ridings.

Different motivations governed the rest of the province. A strong attachment to local representatives, I would argue is one of them. It is not unreasonable to assume that the people that voted for Kathleen Wynne in Don Valley West valued local representation more than the performance of various leaders. The easy re-election of Khalil Ramal in London Fanshawe is a better example. The pundits argued that London Fanshawe set up perfectly for the NDP. After all, if you combined the vote totals from the various polls in 2003 that were under the redistributed London-Fanshawe boundaries they would have won. Furthermore, the NDP was much more popular in 2007 than they were in 2003. Ipso facto, well, nothing. The NDP decided to go youth, which while commendable, is not usually the best strategy for getting elected. Voters stuck with the experienced Ramal. Local candidates matter. They matter a lot in certain ridings. Voters who thought this was important didn't like the lists no matter how democratic the advocates of MMP thought they were.

Other areas vote because of regional preferences. This is particularly relevant in Northern Ontario. Why did NDPers in Toronto say yes to MMP but similarly NDP supporting people in the North reject it so fervently? This is because Northerners want to maintain a Northern voice. This is true in other rural parts of the province as well. I think the election of Randy Hillier last night is proof enough of that. No list can replicate the local representation provided by a FPTP based system.

The other reason MMP failed is because the referendum was about MMP. The debate ended up being about the merits of MMP which I think is appropriate. However, when Elections Ontario changed the yes/no question to an either/or question I feared that the debate would focus on FPTP. If the vote for MMP campaign had managed to make the referendum about that, they may have been more successful at overcoming the natural predispositions against this system. John Tory and the vote for MMP campaign have this problem of directionality in common.

Finally, the referendum campaigns did have a minimal impact. You can certainly see the impact of Michael Bryant and Carolyn Bennett's work in getting the usually small c conservative St. Paul's near 50%. Similar things can be said of George Smitherman in Toronto Centre and Hugh Segal and John Gerretsen in Kingston and the Islands. The impact of our No MMP campaign is hard to decipher in the landslide. I'd say we were successful in Nipissing, Ottawa and elsewhere but I don't know that we would have been less successful had we sat on our hands. As I've said, if we made any major contribution to the overall results last night, it was keeping the attention squarely on MMP. Both referendum campaigns and perhaps the referendum in general were impacted by Elections Ontario's decision to treat the referendum campaigners as third party advertisers. The lack of tax receipts robbed both campaigns of the cash necessary for a full out debate. However, I don't think this is a major cause of the defeat.

Early Election Thoughts

So the results are in from Ontario tonight. Good news all around as far as I am concerned. A strong Liberal majority and a fierce rejection of MMP.

- One of the first things Dalton McGuinty needs to do is set up a legislative committee to look at the horrible job that Elections Ontario did during this election. Not only did their referendum information campaign fail to inform, but their website goes down as the results are coming in. Combine that with massive confusion surrounding the procedures for identification and on a personal note the loss of my voting card (I did vote, by the way), and I am unimpressed. They need to clean up their act for next time around.

- MMP's defeat tonight was decisive. Over 63% (at time of positing) of Ontarians said no, we don't want MMP our current system is preferable. I don't think given these results that Ontarians want to do this again with a different system four years from now. We should look at ways to reform our system, like the ones I proposed here, that don't involve the actual marking and counting of ballots. I will post more on this when Elections Ontario's website is up and the counting is done.

- I am thrilled that Kathleen Wynne was re-elected in Don Valley West. First and foremost, she is a great MPP and cabinet minister and it is good to have her back. Secondly, my distaste for John Tory knows no bounds and to see him defeated warms my heart.

- I am disappointed but not surprised that Peter Tabuns trounced Joyce Rowlands in Toronto-Danforth. The NDP hegemony continues.

- There should be two leadership races in the next four years. The PC race looks to be leaving first. I can't imagine anyone in Tory's caucus jumping to resign so he can get into the legislature. Hampton should leave. He has run three mediocre to poor campaigns. Three strikes should be enough. If the NDP wants to be competitive in Ontario, it needs new blood.

- I realize that I have been fairly silent in my support for the Ontario Liberal Party. I decided to dedicate my time this election to stopping MMP. However, I am thrilled that the Liberals have four more years to make Ontario stronger and better. Congratulations to Dalton McGuinty and all of his caucus colleagues.

As I say, much more analysis once Elections Ontario has results available for the public. (I notice the media got their numbers all night without interruption)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

An explanation is required

I have been criticized for warning bloggers who are blogging about the referendum during the blackout. Firstly, I did it as a public service, not as an attempt to silence opposition to my particular viewpoint. I did it because of how I read the following parts of the election law:

"Section 1:

“referendum advertising” means advertising in any broadcast, print, electronic or other medium that,

(a) has the purpose of promoting a particular result in the referendum, and

(b) appears during the referendum period,

Section 17:

(2) No person or entity shall arrange for or consent to referendum advertising that appears during the blackout period. O. Reg. 211/07, s. 17 (2).

(3) No broadcaster or publisher shall allow a referendum advertisement to appear during the blackout period. O. Reg. 211/07, s. 17 (3)."

To me, this indicates that any blogger "promoting a particular result in the referendum" would be guilty under this law. Now, Scott Tribe did his due diligence and found out that Elections Ontario only considers something advertising if it has been paid for by an election campaign. I have further concerns for bloggers that are affiliated, as I am, with one of the referendum campaigns. Since there is an implied relationship between a blogger and a blog roll, particularly when they advertise on each other's sites, it was my thought that perhaps this would constitute advertising. This is particularly true with the use of omnibus, referendum only, blogs that both sides used during the campaign. Clearly, both sides were using blogs as a means of disseminating propaganda. In essence, for the exact same reason you would use advertising. This would differentiate them from MSM sources, who while they may demonstrate bias or endorse a particular side, do not advertise for that side right beside the editorial or article.

Also troublesome, and I realize I am putting myself in hot water by publishing, is the issue of the banners on many blogs. The clause "No... publisher shall allow a referendum advertisement to appear during the black out" gave me a lengthy pause as a new post generates its own separate webpage where a separate and new advertisement for the referendum campaign would appear. Now I realize this would force people to stop blogging or take down their banners during the blackout which I believe to be unreasonable (here I mean practically, legally I don't know). The unreasonableness of this is why I have decided, after some deliberation, to put out this post and one more post before the polls close.

What all this demonstrates to me is that we need to figure out exactly how blogs are to be treated in future elections. If my pestering this morning starts a tiny debate in that direction, then it will have been worth my time. Given the information that Scott received I encourage all bloggers to use their personal blogs to debate this issue. However, I will not post on it any further. As a member of the executive of one of the referendum campaigns I do not think I can effectively separate personal from campaign blogging. I hope this helps to clarify my position.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Vote to Keep Our Existing Electoral System

This marks my 29th post on the subject of this referendum. It will also be my last before election day. So, here we go 10 reasons to vote for FPTP and against MMP:

10. Stable, effective government. Governments in ONTARIO which fail to get a majority rarely last longer than a couple of years and have difficulty executing a coherent agenda. Majority government allows for long term strategies instead of short term placating. We need to be able to make tough decisions. We can do that under FPTP, we can't under MMP.

9. Small parties should not control the agenda. I don't want a situation like that which exists under MMP systems where small parties control the agenda in spite of voter preference. I would rather have a parliament where a party that receives 40% of the vote has a majority than have a legislature where a party that receives 3% of the vote has the majority of the power. If you want a point of reference look at the power of New Zealand First in the first MMP coalition government or the influence of the Green party on Germany's insane energy policy.

8. Vote for the system you understand. I don't just mean that if you haven't done your research. I am talking about the large number of things we just don't know about MMP. The exact means of list selection is still among them. Does "democratic" mean Democratic Republic of Congo "democratic"? Sorry, not good enough, not by a long shot. Do you understand the process for a recount under MMP? No? That's because there isn't one. Understand what happens if a list MPP crosses the floor? No? That's because there's no provision for or against it. Ontarians don't understand MMP not only because Elections Ontario has failed them but also because there is a lot nobody understands.

7. Ballots should be easy to vote on and easy to count. Neither applies to MMP.

6. All of Ontario matters. Not just Toronto. I say this sitting in Toronto. A one member one vote system of choosing party lists would guarantee Torontonian dominance in the legislature. Voters will vote for who they want first. They won't be thinking about the look of the overall list. With the concentration of population and party members in the GTA, GTA candidates would have a major advantage under MMP.

5. Don't give more power to political parties. They are too powerful as is. Elections should be decided on election night by the voters of Ontario, not a month later by party elites in a Toronto hotel.

4. We are not threatened by nationalism. The boundaries that face minorities have nothing to do with the electoral system. We don't need MMP. You want First Nations politicians? How about Todd Russell? Tina Keeper? Nancy Karetak-Lindell? All in our Parliament today because of First Past the Post. There are more. There's a riding in the 905 where every single candidate is Muslim. Both the Liberals and the NDP have met their targets for increasing women in the legislature. Expect those targets to go up next time around. Our current ministers of health and education are openly gay. The Premier of Orange Ontario is Catholic. Let's look how far we've come before we look at how far we have to go. We don't need MMP to artificially solve our remaining problems.

3. Our electoral districts are too big, don't make them bigger. This is true not only in Northern Ontario where MMP would make a riding larger than France, but also in the GTA where a burgeoning population makes ridings harder and harder for independents and small parties to cover.

2. Our legislature at its best when it is a representation of Ontarians from across this province. I call this blog All Politics is Local because I believe in the importance of community based politics. Today's media based politics have wounded our local politics, we do not need MMP to finish the job. We should be working to restore our local democracy. This is crucial if we are to increase our voter turnout and diversify our legislature.

1. Related to the point above, list MPP's are accountable to absolutely no one. They are not accountable to the whole province as pro-forces claim. They are also not accountable to the people who voted for that party. This is an absurd argument that assumes that voter preferences on election day stay the same the rest of the term. Accountability is crucial. We need to be able to throw out the bums. It is the foundation of our democracy. We must preserve it. For all of our MPP's. We need to reject MMP and keep FPTP to do this.

Vote for our existing electoral system (First-Past-The-Post)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Kathleen Wynne has lead in Don Valley West!

That is according to Greg over at DemocraticSpace. You know what goes well with a thanksgiving turkey? Cooked Tory!

MMP at PEI levels in latest poll

The most recent poll from SES research on MMP breaks down as follows:

FPTP: 47%
MMP: 26%
Unsure: 21%
Not Voting: 5%

If we only look at decided voters:

FPTP 64.3%
MMP: 35.7%

If these polls are accurate the threshold is going to prove quite irrelevant. A strange note: more than twice as many women identify as being unsure then men. 29% of women v. 13% of men. Does this go back to the whole men being more confident in making decisions with incomplete information thing?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

MMP Trashed in MSM

So, the reviews are in and MMP is about as popular as Gigli. First, from the left, came a stinging rebuke from the Toronto Star. Then today from the centre and right the Globe and the Post shoot it down. The pro-MMP folks are undeterred. They've dug up a positive review from the folks at Eye Weekly who have written such mainstream editorials as coming out against male (note: MALE) circumcision. One of their rationale on that one was that foreskin is fun.

On a more depressing note, I went to a MMP debate last night in Kingston. There were about 25 people in the crowd. Sean Conway who was on the panel mentioned afterwards that this was his 5th MMP panel and the 25 people was his biggest crowd. None of the rational arguments for or against will matter if people are uninformed.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Riddle me this?

So, there's a lot of debate as to how the lists will function in MMP. I think the other side of this debate is talking out of both sides of their mouth on a couple of points. I heard Marilyn Churley on TVO make one of the mistakes. And now the Liberals for MMP site is making the other one. Here are the two problems.

1. Are the lists democratic or representative?

They cannot easily be both. If the lists are set in the same way local candidates are nominated now (as the NDP and Tories have suggested), how on earth could we expect more women/minority candidates then get elected today (same system=same results)? In fact, the cost of running a province wide campaign to get on a party list would prevent these historically disadvantaged groups from being nominated. It is far more likely for someone with strong ties within the party to be successful in a one member one vote system. If you do guarantee representativeness how is that democratic? The answer given by proponents is that because the lists are available for public scrutiny, parties will be encouraged to make their slates representative. Aside, from the obvious Rousseau-like general will fantasy this would require in an open democratic nomination process and the fact that people don't seem to care about this point in the current system where the province wide slates are available for public scrutiny, it opens up the second can of worms.

2. What exactly is the second ballot for?

This may seem simple but bare with me. Yes, the second ballot is technically to represent party preference and guarantee proportionality. However, if you buy the argument that the lists will be shaped in whole or in part by public pressure and that only strong candidates will be named to the lists you are essentially arguing for a very different system. If the people on the list matter, if they are not generic partisans then the second ballot is not for the political party at all. It is in fact for the candidates on the party list. This would significantly weaken the claim of party-based proportionality. If people are voting for a party's list in whole or in part because they like or dislike the people or one of the people on the list, it is no longer a party-based vote. For instance, there is little doubt in my mind that if this system existed today, Randy Hillier would be on the PC party list. Now, there are a lot of farmers out there who really like Mr. Hillier. They may be inclined to vote for him and the PC Party instead of voting for one of the more fringe right wing parties. Conversely, there are a lot urban Ontarians that think Randy Hillier is an extremist and would never vote for him. It may prevent them from voting PC because of the knowledge that their vote would get Mr. Hillier elected. Thus, they may vote Liberal or Green to avoid this problem. What happens in this scenario is that people are not just voting for party, but for people which completely destroys any sense of party support.

In other words, you cannot say that on the one hand the lists will be representative and accountable and on the other say that they are democratic and proportional. In my view, they are so little of any of these things that they become worthless.

Monday, October 01, 2007

On Marilyn Churley's Slur

So I'm finally listening to the TVO debate on MMP. Marilyn Churley's slur that our side is somehow threat mongering about extremist Islam is offensive. I think it is particularly offensive given the opposition to MMP from the moderate Islamic community.
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