Monday, November 30, 2009

Environmental Hypocrisy

There are some fairly crude arguments being leveled against our fair country in the run-up to the Copenhagen meetings on climate change. Let's start with the most obvious target the tar sands. Some British journalist (no not Iggy) levels a standard line of attack in today's globe: "The Canadian oil sands are a threat hanging over the whole world." Yes, evil, evil oil sands. There's a funny thing about oil production in Canada, it costs a ton of money, so unless the world really needs the oil, there's very little production. Here's Canada's oil exports since 1990 all figures in US dollars:

1990: $4.7 Billion at an average of $23/barrel = ca. 135 million barrels
1995: $7.1 Billion at an average of $17/barrel = ca. 417 million barrels
2000: $13 Billion at an average of $27/barrel = ca. 481 million barrels
2005: $24.8 Billion at an average of $50/barrel= ca. 496 million barrels
2008: $63.2 Billion at an average of $91/barrel = ca 695 million barrels

Canada's domestic consumption of oil hasn't increased significantly over the same time period. So yes, the oil sands are dirty but when we are exporting 700 million barrels of oil to other countries who need the oil, should we be blamed for having oil that's more ecologically expensive to get out of the ground? Canada should not be blamed for sitting on a large deposit of natural resources. It tends to skew the data. We don't consume most of the resources we extract. It isn't our carbon footprint, in the case of crude at least, it's the American carbon footprint that should be blamed.

Canada is also not the per capita leader in carbon emissions. In 2004 (which is the most recent year with complete data that I can find), it wasn't even close. Oil rich Qatar (who is rarely chided) led the pack with 79.3 t CO2 per person. Canada was one quarter that at 20 t CO2 per person. Other oil producers also topped Canada including Kuwait (37.1) the UAE (34.2) Bahrain (23.9), the US (20.6) and an odd name on the list, tiny EU member Luxembourg (25). Often ignored, in that number is that according to David Suzuki's people, Canada's two most populous provinces have seen their per capita emissions DROP since 1990. Indeed Québec has seen its total emissions fall according the Suzuki Foundation. Almost all of Canada's problems lie in the oil patch which as shown above has largely been a spike in exports. We are environmental laggards only because we are leaders in natural resource extraction. Canada demonstrates a fatal flaw in how we assign blame for carbon emissions. It is not the criminal it is being made out to be.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

People Should Listen To Me...

After all, the Tories wouldn't have to worry about Gerald Keddy making absolutely idiotic comment about unemployed Nova Scotians if Stephen Harper had kicked him out of caucus over cheque-gate last month. Just saying...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Riding-by-Riding Projection

I've been thinking of doing this for awhile now. Below, I've embedded a PDF of my riding-by-riding projections. Scroll through to see the numbers for your part of the country:

Seat Projection - 11212009

Projection Update: Torture Edition

No, these projections don't represent any consequences from Mr. Colvin's testimony, but it is a decent way to sum up the week that was. A dearth of polls over the last month means this projection is based on an aggregate of just 7 polls.

National Picture

CPC 145 (-1)
LPC 76 (-2)
BQ 52 (+1)
NDP 35 (+2)


BC: CPC 20, NDP 11, LPC 5
AB: CPC 28
SK: CPC 13, LPC 1
MB: CPC 10, NDP 3, LPC 1
North: CPC 1, LPC 1, NDP 1
ON: CPC 53, LPC 37, NDP 16
PQ: BQ 52, LPC 14, CPC 9
NB: CPC 6, LPC 3, NDP 1
NS: LPC 5, CPC 4, NDP 2
NL: LPC 5, CPC 1, NDP 1

Friday, November 20, 2009

Abhorent Consistency

The Conservative Party of Canada is showing its true stripes this week. On two equally disgusting fronts. First, the Tories are defaming whistle blower Richard Colvin because he implicated that government employees in both Defense and Foreign Affairs tried to bury the torture of Afghan detainees in Kandahar's prisons. Second, the Tories are continuing their relentless pursuit of the Jewish vote by implicitly calling two Jewish Members of Parliament anti-Semitic. Don't see the connection? Let me explain. The common thread between the two incidents is the Conservatives equating criticism of a state with an attack upon that state or its people. Democratic governments function best when criticism is absorbed and listened to, not when it is rejected out of hand and denigrated. Mr. Colvin becomes the latest in a line of public servants to feel the wrath of the Harper government because they dared to paint a less than rosy picture of what is going on around them. The Tories have responded to Mr. Colvin's allegations by saying that Mr. Colvin is spreading "Taliban propaganda". It is beyond low.

The ten-percenters hit a little closer to home for me. I struggle as a Jewish-Canadian to comprehend the connection between my life in Canada and the state of Israel. Historically speaking my great-grandparents immigrated from Eastern Europe not Israel. Mostly though, I'm Canadian. Yes, I'm Jewish in my faith but my country is Canada, and only Canada. I hope for peace in the Middle East but I refuse to take responsibility for the actions of the state of Israel just because the majority of its citizens share my faith. No state, not Canada, not Israel is perfect. No state, not Canada, not Israel is above criticism. Critiques of Israel do not have to stem from an anti-Israeli place let alone an anti-Semitic place. In fact, Israelis are often the most virulent critics of Israel, as should be true in any democratic country. The implication that the position of a Canadian political party on the conflict in the Middle East is of any relevance to the lives of Canadian Jews or the combatants in the Middle East is absurd. Canada may like to think of itself as an honest broker, but frankly we don't do much brokering. We don't matter very much in the grand scheme of Middle Eastern politics. By all means, attack real anti-Semitism in this country. I can say from personal experience that it is all too prevalent. However, saying the IDF may have made mistakes in the heat of battle is not anti-Semitic. As a Canadian, it offends me when people think that my political motivations are governed by my faith. Fifty years ago John F. Kennedy had to ward off attacks that he would take orders from Rome. It is a sad state of affairs when the same mentality that supported those attacks is alive and well in the government of Canada.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sarah Palin's 2012 Chances

There's a fair bit of speculation these days, with the launch of her book, that Sarah Palin will run for the Republican nomination for President in 2012. I agree that she probably will run. I don't think she can win. To follow-up Tom Schaller's piece at fivethirtyeight, here's a few more reasons why:
  1. New Hampshire: While two-time New Hampshire Republican Primary winner John McCain thought she was a kindred spirit, Sarah Palin doesn't seem to mesh with the Granite State. The old small-c New England conservative would seem a stark contrast to Ms. Palin's neo-Conservative new Republicanism. If that weren't enough there will probably be an immovable object in New Hampshire named Mitt Romney. Romney was beat out at the wire by McCain in New Hampshire last time out, but Palin won't be able to play the historical sentiment card. Romney's one of the few potential Republican candidates who fit New Hampshire's political profile. He also has the time and money to run away from the field there. Palin along with most of the rest of the field (Pawlenty may prove the exception) will probably therefore dedicate their attention to:
  2. Iowa: The Hawkeye State is home to evangelical caucus voters and will be target A1 for the long list of social Conservatives in the Republican race. The inside track would have to belong to Mike Huckabee who surprised just about everyone by winning the caucuses last time out. Caucuses in general may prove problematic for the divisive Palin and Iowa voters will have lots of other choices to park their votes with. Everyone from Newt Gingrich, to Haley Barbour, to Rick Santorum are possibilities. Iowa will either go to Huckabee or be a crapshoot, either way Palin has long odds.
  3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: Yes, the Mormon Church. The LDS Church has flexed a lot of political muscle lately (see Prop 8) and will quietly toe the church/state line in their support of Mitt Romney. There may have been a time where this was only important in Utah. Not anymore. There is a long list of Western states where the Mormon vote will provide the money and support the eventual winner will need (including early Caucus holder Nevada). Palin is going to get the cold shoulder from a category of voters that may have otherwise supported her.
  4. Timetables: We should start to see the horse trading surrounding primary and caucus dates soon. This can completely change the complexion of the race. A lot of early races mean a lot more big fields by virtue of the fact that it becomes a cheaper campaign to run and fewer candidates will drop out. Palin needs to be able to take on an opponent head-to-head, especially an opponent like Mitt Romney. If more states join Florida and Michigan and crash the early primaries, Palin could find herself to far behind in the winner-take-all Republican system to have a chance after Super Tuesday. Both parties have incentives to get the primaries out of the way early and may not be as hostile to states jumping the queue as they were in 2008.
  5. Campaign Management: Someone has to run her campaign. Someone who isn't named in her book as getting in her way in 2008. While a Karl Rove or someone of his ilk would probably accept the challenge, getting Palin to conform to the on-message requirements of a long campaign may prove a) impossible and b) detrimental. Palin is famous for being able to say anything at any time something that makes her great media fodder, a head ache for campaign managers and very popular among a sector of voters who are desperate for sincerity. Palin may say some strange things but one gets the sense that she believes what she is saying (at least at the moment she says it). The Republican Party has become a talking point driven party and Palin will make that strategy difficult. Finding the balance between Donna Brazille (the micro-manager of Al Gore's 2000 run) and Aaron Sorkin (the West Wing producer who's strategy was "Let Bartlett, Be Bartlett") will be difficult if not impossible.
  6. Money: People power is wonderful, but big money fundraisers are still key to maintaining a long Presidential campaign. Obama could do both. No one on the Republican side last time except Ron Paul could do either. While the Ron Paul crowd may back Palin (if Paul decides not to run), Palin lacks the big money network common to most successful Republican nominees. People power only got Mike Huckabee a bridesmaid spot last time out. Romney can just lend himself the money, Palin doesn't have that luxury.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Tolls For T.O.

As Toronto's mayoralty race begins to heat up the perennial question of funding Canada's largest city rears its ugly head. One of the more popular ideas out there among the chattering classes is tolls on Toronto's major highways. The evidence that most advocates like Marcus Gee in this column put forward is that it works in Europe. Usually Stockholm and/or London are offered as examples of functioning toll systems. This is fallacy. Tolls work when there are viable alternatives to taking the highway. While the TTC works beautifully in the city, the suburbs (and frankly much of the old boroughs) are transit nightmares. While it is possible to get from the suburbs to downtown by transit, it is not necessarily easy for a lot of commuters. North American suburbs are far more sprawled out than their European counterparts and Toronto is no exception. Combine this sprawl with an infrastructure deficit and it becomes difficult to get from point A to point B. The other challenge for Toronto is that it finds itself as the go between for one of the busiest traffic allies in North America. The Quebec City-Windsor corridor runs through the northern end of Toronto. Charging tolls on the 401 would drive up the price of just about everything purchased in the corridor. Exempting trucks would be political suicide. Until the city's transit network improves dramatically, tolls will be unnecessarily punitive in Toronto.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Post-By-Election Projection Update

It's still a little slow on the polling front which is unfortunate as it leaves fewer polls in my rolling aggregate for the second week in a row. However, it's as good a snapshot as anything else. The by-election results have been included in the model for whatever they are worth. It doesn't give the Tories Riviere du Loup but it gets them a heck of a lot closer.

National Picture

CPC 146
LPC 78
BQ 51
NDP 33

Province by Province:

BC: CPC 21, NDP 10, LPC 5
AB: CPC 28
SK: CPC 13, LPC 1
MB: CPC 10, NDP 3, LPC 1
North: CPC 1, LPC 1, NDP 1
ON: CPC 53, LPC 38, NDP 15
QC: BQ 51, LPC 15, CPC 9
NB: CPC 6, LPC 3, NDP 1
NS: LPC 5, CPC 4, NDP 2
NL: LPC 5, CPC 1, NDP 1

Warren Kinsella on John Tory

I always find the strange bedfellows part of politics amusing. I understand that Kinsella and Tory are friends and I respect his decision to support him in the mayoralty. However, it is difficult to take this kind of thing with a straight face given the history. Here are some good examples from Warren's site:

"If you liked Brian Mulroney, you'll love John Tory!"
- Kinsella, Sept. 16, 2007

"The differences are clear.

John favours private education, private health care and monied private interests. We don't.

Oh, and John - who has been displaying appalling judgment in week one alone, with "U. of Zero," "por favor" and claiming that teachers "rig" tests - wants to use your tax dollars to teach your kids about creationism. We don't."

Kinsella, Sept. 10, 2007

"Wow. That's it for John and politics."

-Kinsella after Tory's defeat in DVW, Oct. 10, 2007


Kinsella after Tory went negative, August 28, 2007

"More bad judgment from John Tory. (And, remember, he says you are to blame. Not him.)"

Kinsella, September 28, 2007

Above a picture of Tory and PC MPP Randy Hillier:


We said we’d get a photo of anti-gay, anti-native, anti-urban Randy Hillier with his leader, John Tory. And we did.

(And check out the sign. That's Tory about to speak to, or having just spoken to, a rabidly far-right-wing group. It means these two have been pals for a long time. Interesting, no?)"

Kinsella, July 18, 2007

" me the next time you see John Tory lined up somewhere other than the Four Season's, would ya?"

Kinsella, July 2, 2007

"I was warming up, a bit, so I kept going: "Shame on John Tory! Shame on him! Shame on him for claiming to be an urban, urbane 'progressive' conservative, and then turning around and permitting the candidacy of someone who rails against 'Quebec, Native, Arts, Homosexual, Urban and Multi cultures'! "

The John Tory we all knew, I told the writer, ceased to exist on the day that he permitted Randy Hillier to be his standard-bearer. And that is the case we intend to put before the people of Ontario this Fall. And they will agree with us."

Kinsella, June 14, 2007

And it goes on, and on, and on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ghosts of Dumont Haunt Bloc

The Conservatives are the big winners out of the by-elections yesterday picking up the previously Bloc held riding of Montmagny -- L'Islet -- Kamouraska -- Rivière du Loup. Rivière du Loup is of course the long time home of former ADQ leader Mario Dumont. While the ADQ is dead in the water in Québec, the small-c conservative nationalists in small town Québec who brought them to the verge of power are still a political force to be reckoned with. We forget that the original Bloc Québecois was as much a splinter of the Progressive Conservatives as anything else. The Bloc incumbent, Paul Crête, had originally defeated an old PC to gain the seat in 1993. The Bloc's uneasy relationship with small town Quebec is the stuff that Conservative majority dreams are made of. Conservatives are rightly optimistic this morning. Months after being written off in the province, they are back and winning seats. Holding this riding in a general election is of course a whole other business. Still, Harper's grand governing coalition looks more alive today than it did a week ago.

As for my projections? Well, I got the winner right in three out of four and was right that CCMV was not going to be close. My margins were way off but I attribute that at least partially to the by-elections are crazy rule of thumb. Also, 22.3% turnout in Hochelaga?!?! Of note in all the results is the terrible performance by the Green Party. This partially accounts for my margins being way off. The Greens pulled a pathetic 4.3% in BC and had their best result in MIKR at 4.8%. I always have the suspicion that the Greens get a lot of the "None of the Above" vote in a poll and that is not likely to translate into votes on election day. Still, the BC result is particularly shocking as my aggregate of polls has them at 11.48% in the province. With the Liberals exceeding expectations in Nova Scotia, the Greens are the only party to underperform my projections in every riding. By-elections should be a top priority for this party if they ever want to be an electoral force (look at what a win did for the Wildrose Alliance). Not finding 5% of the vote anywhere is a spectacular failure. The leader most under fire today should be Elizabeth May.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Monday Quick Hits

Some quick thoughts for a Monday:
  • Now Former Deputy Premier of Ontario George Smitherman has announced his intention to run to be mayor of Toronto. For those outside of the centre of the universe, the race is open after incumbent Mayor Miller announced he would not seek re-election.
  • It may be time to check back in with fivethirtyeight. The site and its head Nate Silver, gained fame in last year's presidential election for their high level poll analysis. Silver is using his statistical powers to out what he believes is a fraudulent polling firm. The evidence seems pretty damning against Strategic Vision who Silver accuses of making up some or all of their numbers over the last few years.
  • Today is of course by-election day in 4 ridings across the country. No, the Liberals won't win any seats. No, they really didn't have a hope in hell of winning any of the seats up for grabs. No, it doesn't say anything about Liberal fortunes. Since when does a party's spin get to be the headline in a straight news story? How about "Looming by-election defeats raise questions for Harper"? It would be just as honest. They're freaking by-elections. It's the political equivalent of Plinko: you drop the writ and see where it ends up.
  • Ed Stelmach survived a confidence vote in Alberta over the weekend. Votes of the Progressive Conservative Party membership (or their delegates) have been more decisive that elections over the last forty years. That may change. The 77% approval falls in the lukewarm range. Lukewarm is generally a temperature associated with the growth of unwanted things... like right wing opposition parties.
  • Twenty years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. It's a historical symbol that has governed the last twenty years of history. It should be remembered as such.
  • The guy who beat the indicted Fmr. Rep. William Jefferson in Louisiana wants to get re-elected. Proof? He voted for healthcare reform.
  • I'm trying to decide if the upcoming talks in Copenhagen will be detrimental to the fight against global warming or just generally useless.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Projection Update: Pre-By-Election Edition

With by-elections in four ridings set to go on Monday, it's time for our regular projection update. The only new poll is from Ekos but my rolling aggregate has aged out three polls so it's more than one poll moving the numbers. The Liberals and the NDP get a bump this week.

National Picture

CPC 149
LPC 76
NDP 32
BQ 51


BC: CPC 21, NDP 10, LPC 5
AB: CPC 28
SK: CPC 13, LPC 1
MB: CPC 12, NDP 2
ON: CPC 54, LPC 37, NDP 15
PQ: BQ 51, LPC 15, CPC 9
NB: CPC 6, LPC 3, NDP 1
NS: LPC 5, CPC 4, NDP 2
NL: LPC 5, CPC 1, NDP 1

As for the four by-election ridings, my projections follow with all the normal "by-elections are crazy" caveats. I think the winners are probably accurate. The margins I won't vouch for. Three I can just pull from my projections:

New Westminster Coquitlam:

NDP 39.92%
CPC 36.22%
LPC 13.54%
GPC 9.64%


BQ 44.68%
LPC 22%
NDP 11.92%
CPC 11.08%
GPC 8.58%

Montmagny -- L'Islet -- Kamouraska -- Rivière du Loup:

BQ 40.01%
CPC 27.43%
LPC 19.72%
GPC 7.01%
NDP 4.9%

In Nova Scotia, trying to project around Bill Casey is a challenge. However, based on 2004 and 2006 results and current polling I get:

CPC 52.21%
NDP 18.06%
LPC 16.84%
GPC 8.29%

Make of that projection what you will. The question in Cumberland -- Colchester -- Musquodobolt Valley is whether or not people are still angry with Harper over Atlantic Accord stuff. If they are, this projection is nowhere close to accurate.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Things That Are Registered in Canada

  • Corporations
  • Pets
  • Cars
  • Weddings
  • Babies
  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Electricians
  • Real Estate Agents
  • etc., etc., etc.

NY-23 and the GOP

The Republicans are spinning hard tonight after losing a congressional district they've held for over 150 years. The last time a Democrat won in that area, Canada was still a colony of the British Empire and included only southern Quebec and Southern Ontario. Yes, there were unique circumstances at play here as I've outlined previously. The really devastating news for the GOP is that congressman-elect Bill Owens (D) almost cracked 50%. The spin before the Republican dropped out was that even if the Democrat sneaked up through the middle, Hoffman or whoever won the GOP nomination in 2010 would wipe the floor with him on the larger midterm stage. With Scozzafava barely on the radar, Owens can honestly say he won this election head-to-head albeit with a rare endorsement from the official Republican candidate. Losing what should have been a safe house seat isn't good for the GOP, irrespective of circumstance. Remember, the GOP has seen this play before, Dennis Hastert's old seat (IL-14) was lost to the Democrats in a special election and lost again on election day last year. This was accompanied by similar double victories by Travis Childers (D) in Mississippi's 1st. While Barack Obama's coattails will be gone for Democratic candidates in 2010, this is not the way the GOP would like to start that campaign.

As for the elections in New Jersey and Virginia? State races won for state reasons. Particularly New Jersey where Jon Corzine's massive unpopularity was simply too much to overcome. As for Virginia? True to recent form, they voted opposite of the president's party a year after his election as they've done for the past 33 years. Although, if I'm honest, that's probably a coincidence. I would stipulate that Democratic Northern Virginia (the "fake Virginia" for you McCain voters) may be more interested in Washington DC than Richmond. Governors are useful in congressional and presidential elections to raise money and campaign, set the rules of the game, and potentially become federal candidates themselves. However, rarely are their elections about what is going on in Washington.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Constitutions Aren't Situational

Afghanistan is still struggling with its upcoming Presidential run-off. After being forced by the international community to have the constitutionally mandated second vote, Pres. Karzai now looks to be unopposed after his opponent, Dr. Abdullah. As a result, the Afghan Election Commission has apparently canceled the second round of voting. This bit of pragmatism was forced again by the international community who had now interest in paying in blood and money for the security around a second vote that would be a Karzai coronation. There's only one problem with all of these practicalities: they're unconstitutional. The Afghan Constitution is clear that if no candidate wins 50% of the vote in the first round of voting, a second round is required between the top two candidates. Democracy can only gain legitimacy (something it sorely lacks in Afghanistan) if the people in power respect the laws and constitution. If Presidents and election commissions don't feel obligated to follow the law, why should anyone else? It would seem to me that there is a fairly obvious way to solve the constitutional quagmire Afghanistan is in: hold a run off between Mr. Karzai and the third place finisher Dr. Ramazan Bashardost. Dr. Abdullah has said that he is no longer a candidate which would mean that the top two candidates remaining are Pres. Karzai and Dr. Bashardost. While I don't think the vote would be close, it would maintain the legitimacy of the constitution and that would be priceless.
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