Monday, October 24, 2011

Submitted Without Commentary

Number of people per seat under Harper's new plan (per StatsCan Q2 2011 Estimates):

PEI: 36,464
Newfoundland and Labrador: 72,940
New Brunswick: 75,546
Saskatchewan: 75,563
Nova Scotia: 85,949
Manitoba: 89,327
Qu├ębec: 103,631
Alberta: 111,157
British Columbia: 111,544
Ontario: 112, 778

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Main Street

The protests that have broken out south of the border and are apparently moving north are misguided in their rage. What people remember about the financial meltdown of 2008 was the crashing of the market, the credit crisis and the bank bailouts. They seem to forget that while the banks were certainly a major player in the financial disaster, they were nowhere near alone. I remember shortly after the meltdown CNN was ran some overly dramatic top ten villains of the financial crisis. On the list Ali Velshi presented back then was the American People. They should not be forgotten. The current financial mess is not a result of the rich becoming too rich. It's a result of the average American trying to act like the rich.

The financial crisis of 2008 was upon any amount of sober reflection about the unrealistic expectation of the American dream. For the last twenty years, Americans convinced themselves and their politicians that everyone should have the house in the suburbs with the white picket fence the 2.5 kids and the 1.5 pets. Maybe not my dream, but for a lot of Americans it was the dream, and one that they felt entitled to realize it. Government responded to demand by encouraging home ownership and loosening mortgage rules. Banks responded by loosening lending rules and finding creative instruments to try to water down the worst of the debt. Asset backed credit paper is not a bad idea if you properly assess the risk of the product. The crisis was because no one saw the true value of the product and the underlying mortgages (or at least very few saw it). A society deluded itself that you could own your dream home on minimum wage. The banks were among the deluded. Singling out the banks for outrage doesn't make any sense. You certainly can't blame them because Congress decided to bail them out. Blame Congress. What did you think the banks were going to turn Congress down? The entire society is to blame for the financial mess, no amount of scapegoating will change that.

Being angry with the rich is not productive. Then again, protests rarely are productive. Bluntly, collective consensus driven mobs don't have a great history of affecting change. Particularly, when they have no idea what they want. Yes, there is a growing gap between the very rich and the rest of the country. What should Americans or Canadians do about that? The accumulation of wealth in the hands of a small minority may be discomforting but in a capitalist democratic society, there isn't much that can be done. I don't think there are a lot of people in downtown New York who want to seize the assets of the rich in spite of the "occupy" tone. After all, they didn't loot the Upper East Side, they just walked by angrily. If the protestors want to raise taxes a couple points on the wealthiest Americans, then they should get out of New York, go down to Washington or better yet their local congressional campaign office and start lobbying for change. Urban camping will not close the income gap or restart the economy (okay, maybe a slight boost to the urban camping industry). If the protestors feel disenfranchised and disconnected from their country, they should exercise their franchise and connect. Sitting outside in the cold won't get them anywhere.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Ontario's Back to the Future Election

It was a strange night on Thursday as Ontario re-elected Dalton McGuinty's Liberals to another term at Queen's Park. Much has been made that the majority is over and that the Premier should be chastened by the result. Yes, McGuinty lost votes from his obliteration of the inept John Tory in 2007. It would have been virtually impossible for a Liberal leader to do better than he did 2007. If the Grits had won 3 more seats and were sitting with a relatively stable majority, this would be viewed as a win of historic proportion. Even without the majority it is still an historic win. Historic, yes, because the last Liberal leader to do it was the great Oliver Mowatt but mostly because it represents a real defining moment not for the Liberal Goverment but for the Progressive Conservative opposition.

Tim Hudak had an awful night on Thursday. He had the extraordinary good fortune of having the extremely low benchmark of John Tory to exceed. Otherwise, Tim Hudak would have probably had to resign last night. He isn't under tremendous pressure today because PC's are content to have a leader who was at very least able to unite his party's base behind him. The base came out in droves. The Tories were able to win huge victories in rural Ontario on the strength of Hudak's anti-Green energy act platform. Absolute majorities (over 70% for John Yakabuski) in rural ridings helped prop up the PC's share of the popular vote. What it masked was a disastrous night for Tim Hudak's Tories in the GTA. The Tories failed to win a single seat in Mississauga or Brampton. They didn't come close in Toronto. This isn't a coincidence. Tim Hudak ran a campaign targeted in Rural Ontario and won in Rural Ontario. He failed to speak to urban voters and lost decisively in the GTA. As the Premier said, Hudak seemed to want to take the province back to some point in the golden past. This wins votes on the farm, not in the city.

Why is this such a disaster? Well, the 2011 census is now complete. Since the provincial legislature south of the French River is dictated by how Elections Canada draws the new federal maps and Stephen Harper has promised Ontario a more accurate slice of the pie in the new alignment, there will likely be a whole bunch of new ridings on the electoral map come sometime in 2013, 18 more according to one Harper plan. These ridings won't be in a farmer's field either. According to the projections I ran last year, 10 of the new ridings will be in the 905 largely in Mississauga, Brampton and Markham (three places the Tories didn't win a seat). Another couple ridings will be in Toronto itself. That leaves just six ridings outside of the GTA versus twelve within. This means that if the same election results were played out on the new map, the Liberals would probably have the majority they crave.
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