It's Fixed in the Next Release

Observations on Everything

Federal Election 2015, Stephen Harper and the Conservative Dilemma

Despite a number of philosophical differences, I understand why many Canadians support the idea of a fiscally conservative government that only offers the most essential of services in exchange for costing less through taxes. I do understand the attraction; there are some policies that I support from both ends of the political spectrum, and I’ve had many a debate on these issues with family and friends.

What I don’t understand is how anyone, from any political stripe, can support Stephen Harper. The partisanship, the disrespect for both the democratic process and for the Canadian people, repeated defiance of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the outright corruption boggles my mind. When the Liberal ad scandal broke, the then (Liberal) Prime Minister ordered a public inquiry despite the obvious political cost, and yet some of my Conservative friends still hurl “corrupt” at the Liberal party while seemingly finding this crap to be acceptable. I cannot grasp how anyone with any moral values could say that.

This year, a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for Harper, and a vote for more of the same from him and his unelected PMO staff. You may counter that a Conservative vote is nothing more than a vote for your local candidate, but it is Harper who has muzzled his back-benchers, and stripped them of the ability to represent their constituents in the Commons and in committee, so this defence is invalid. A Conservative vote is a vote for Harper, and a vote for him endorses all of this corrupt, morally bankrupt activity.

I understand how your philosophical position might preclude you from voting for one of the other parties. I confess I have reservations about both and I am uneasy about my still wavering support for the NDP in this one. Since reaching voting age there have been two provincial elections where I’ve gone in and declined my ballot — I found none of the available options acceptable. But that’s not an option at the federal level. I’m pretty sure that if I was a hardcore Conservative and unable to support an alternative, this time around I’d be showing up on Election Day and spoiling my ballot in disgust.

Why Justin Trudeau Should be Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

Justin Trudeau is entering the race for the leadership of the Liberals. Polls within the party are said to show that he’s likely to win. While this might not be a great thing for the Liberals, it’s great for the country.

If the Liberals elect Trudeau, they’ll be sending a clear signal: that their collective wisdom favours the iconic over substance. It will show that they believe – as a whole – that a descendant of the Marilyn Monroe of Canadian Politics (no I’m not talking about Maggie here) will lead us to the nirvana of the centre left.

The challenge with Canadian politics is that our multi-party system won’t work as long as the method of electing representation is the primitive first past the post system. With our irrational fear of coalition governments, and an increasing tendency to move the locus of power from Parliament to the Prime Minister’s Office, it’s virtually impossible to construct a government that is representative of the will of the Canadian people unless they’re presented with a binary choice: Leftish or Rightish.

The Right suffered from this for years, with votes split between the Progressive Conservatives and Reform; now the Left suffers with a split between the Liberals and the NDP.

Justin can fix all that. In one decisive stroke, the Liberals can transform themselves from a crusty dynasty in need of renewal into a national joke. One can only hope that the liberals will subsequently poll in the range of the Natural Law Party. Centrist voters will be forced to choose the NDP in spite of it’s soft socialist heritage, the Conservatives will be back in opposition, and we’ll have a government that is less unrepresentative of the national character. Refugees from the Liberals will join the NDP, taking it further toward the centre, and all will be well.

So go for it, Justin, for the good of the country.

Why I’m Voting Green in 2011

It’s probably pretty obvious from this blog that my political philosophy most closely aligns with the Liberal Party. What’s less obvious is that it’s hardly a tight fit. Its more of an alignment of averages. Some probably perceive me as radical left (for example I believe in a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians), some as radical right (along with guaranteed income comes the cancellation of many social assistance programs). I believe in competition, but I don’t subscribe to the interpretation that competition requires traditional capitalism. Read more

Let’s Just Call it the Canadian Conference Board of Incompetence

In The Conference Board of Canada’s Deceptive, Plagiarized Digital Economy Report Michael Geist attacks the Conference Board for a variety of faults that call its claims of objectivity into question. Subsequently, in Conference Board of Canada Responds, Stands By Its Report he comments on their inadequate response.

What is perhaps most informative is this quote from the response “The Conference Board regularly produces custom research. Our guidelines for financed research require the design and method of research, as well as the content of the report, to be determined solely by the Conference Board.” [Note to conference board: that is how you cite sources.]

This quote suggests that they take full responsibility for the incompetence, sloppy methodology, poor fact checking, and many other faults in their work. They appear to either be completely disconnected from reality or to be fully aware that they have no credibility whatsoever.

I suppose it doesn’t matter which.

How the Liberals Should Elect a Leader

There is no question that the Liberal Party of Canada needs to pick a new leader, and fast. Not only do they have to do it quickly, but they have to do it right.

While Michael Ignatieff might be the right choice, and might even be the winner at a convention, Bob Rae’s observation that a process of installing him is “undemocratic” carries some weight. Simply installing Ignatieff based on polling results and some “consultation” with riding leadership may be prudent, but it’s not smart.

I put “undemocratic” in quotes for two reasons. Firstly, the word has been horribly misused over the past few weeks. All the political drama we have just experienced has been nothing but democracy. Those who call it otherwise are merely uninformed. Anyone who says “I voted for Harper, not Dion” is in desperate need of education on the political system that this country uses. On the second count, the normal process that the Liberals use to pick a leader is anything but democratic. To anyone who wants to argue this, I merely observe that this was the process that got Dion the leadership in the first place.

The “transferable delegate” system might make for great television, but it has clearly been demonstrated that not only is it out of touch with the party grassroots, it doesn’t pick the best leader. Time to chuck this tradition along with Mr. Dion. This time, let’s lose the baby and the bath water.

This gives the Liberals an amazing opportunity to demonstrate that there is a fix for the problem. What they should do is quickly set up an online leadership voting system. They should mail cards with a security PIN code to every party member in good standing. Party members should then be required to combine this PIN with some piece of personal information that’s on file, such as the member’s phone number and year that they joined the party. There will need exception handling process for those who have problems, but I guarantee that they’ll get a democratically elected leader in a short period of time and at a lot less cost than a convention.

The catch to all of this is that we’re talking about a party that can’t manage to get a critical video for a national address done on a reasonable schedule, and even then they can’t do a job that wouldn’t embarrass a grade seven student. It’s painfully evident that the Liberal communications people are under siege at best, or woefully incompetent at worst.

Still, an online leader selection process would be relatively straightforward. I’d even be willing to help implement such a system, because I think real democracy is important. Then we can talk about moving federal elections to a Single Transferable Vote system (in particular, BC-STV) and then maybe we can get on to building governments that are formed from meaningful, relevant, and functional coalitions. It is possible. Read more

Liberal Hopeful Bob Rae Expects Three Years of Recession?

Bob Rae announced that he will be seeking the leadership of the Liberal Party today. “I’m running because I believe I have the judgement, the character, the values and the experience to lead at a very difficult time in the life of our country,” said Mr. Rae.

It’s not exactly clear which leadership he’s talking about. If he had said “a very difficult time in the life of our party,” I would probably be in agreement. He and Michael Ignatieff are both pretty strong candidates, but I think Mr. Rae stands a better chance in a federal election. I find Ignatieff to be a little distant… he might very well make the best Prime Minister, but that’s no good if you can’t win an election. I also don’t think Mr. Rae’s much-discussed stint as Ontario premier is anywhere near the liability that it’s been made out to be.

But watching today’s press conference, I got the distinct impression that Rae is saying that he’s got what it takes to be PM during hard economic times. So he’s got some magic plan to win the leadership race and topple Harper’s government in the next nine months or so — that would be quite a feat — or he expects the recession to last a good three to four years, the most likely time we’ll be called to the polls again.

Now this downturn may very well last that long, but it sure doesn’t look good to come out looking like that’s your expectation. Looks like poor judgement, which makes the statement self-contradictory. Read more

RIP, SUV: Gas Prices Are “Getting There”

This weekend the Toronto Star announced the death of the SUV. One of the reasons this came up has to be the closing of the General Motors truck assembly line in Oshawa. It seems that as the price of gas gets above about $1.25 per litre (or $4/gallon in the U.S.), the number of people who “need” an unsafe gas guzzling SUV drops off pretty quickly. Now these same people “need” to unload their luxury land barges. There’s nothing like a flexible definition of needs.

This is a good start. There’s going to be a lot fewer road trips in the family road boat this year. Some people will argue that this is a bad thing, that families should be able to get out there with their kids to see all that this vast country has to offer. These people haven’t actually seen a family in one of these vehicles. The parents are happily enjoying their time “together” while each kid is in their own isolated space with individual DVD players and noise-reducing headphones. They see as much of the countryside in their basements. Besides, a lot of travel options remain open. Our geography is every bit as dramatic from a train. Better yet, on a train it’s a lot easier to get your kids to come out of their multimedia shells and look at something without risking a major accident. Read more

Earth Hour: Little More than a Message

Earth Hour has come and gone. Overall it was pretty successful: the statistic I heard was that electricity consumption in Ontario was down by 8%.

What does that mean? From a pragmatic viewpoint, not a hell of a lot. From a political viewpoint, it’s pretty significant. I don’t have the numbers that project the percentage of the population that participated, based on an 8% reduction, but I’ll guess it’s somewhere between 15% and 25%.

That’s a lot of people sending a message. At this point it seems the big environmental problem is politicians. Most individuals get it, most corporations get it, but the politicians, who can actually manage the process of real change, just aren’t there yet.

Maybe having as many as one in four voters demonstrate their commitment to change through Earth Hour will be enough to wake them up. I’m not holding my breath though. Read more

Making the Best of Afghanistan

Canada has a significant proportion of it’s military involved in a combat and reconstruction role in Afghanistan. In principle, the mission is a good one: get rid of what’s left of the Taliban; help rebuild the damage done by war; establish a stable political system that allows the country to become self-sufficient.

Everything sounds pretty good except for that last part. Try holding a gun to someone’s head and saying “right, form a stable civil state or I’ll shoot.” It’s not going to work.

Read more