Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In absentia

I'll be incommunicado for the next couple of weeks for work reasons, but here's some stuff you should all read in the meantime:

Paul Wells calls Jim Flaherty a crybaby and Calgary Grit calls him a hypocrite. Given the evidence, I'd say they're both right.

Steve at Far and Wide is hosting an interesting discussion about Dion's latest difficulties in Québec, with a local organization that's actively trying to oust him as leader. Yet again I find myself confused and bewildered by that strange Canadian custom of making the leader the scapegoat for every last one of a party's struggles while ignoring everything else that's wrong.

Worth The Fee to Read It has been offering up an assessment on all of the parties' current predicaments in light of the recent by-elections: the Greens, the NDP, and the Bloc, the Liberals, and the Conservatives. I don't agree with all of it, but it's thoughtful stuff that's, um, worth reading.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A question for supporters of the Conservative immigration legislation

I know a thing or two about Canada's immigration system, having been through it myself. I know that there's a rigorous points system that awards more points to people trained in jobs the country currently needs, to experienced workers, to educated people, to younger people, and to people who have ability in one or both of Canada’s official languages. I also know that it's quite difficult to get enough points to qualify--I myself barely did, once upon a time.

Now, the Conservatives are proposing to change that system. The changes would give new powers to the Minister of Immigration, allowing that office to do three things:

a) accelerate applications
b) reject applicants who otherwise meet all immigration criteria
c) discard applications from specific countries.

The current Immigration Minister, Diane Finley, is claiming that these changes are necessary in order to "make it easier to get more people here faster." But the thing is, only the first provision--the one allowing the minister to accelerate applications--could actually result in more people coming to Canada, more quickly. The other two new provisions must therefore have different aims. Supporters, such as this commenter at the Globe and Mail site, are saying that these changes would give preference to "those with the skills we need right now." But this is the very thing the existing points system already does. It's the whole idea behind it.

So, to supporters of this proposed legislation, I ask: what is the purpose of provisions b and c above, i.e., granting the minister the ability to reject applicants who otherwise meet all immigration criteria and discard applications from specific countries? And how would the new system help Canada reach its goals better than the current, points-based one?

Friday, March 21, 2008

"I'm a fair voter"

The other day, I had a conversation that led me to go back and dig up something that Mark Greenan from Blogging for Democracy said a couple of years ago. Turns out, it's so good that I felt like pulling it out and looking at it again:

My strongest political affiliation is non-partisan--or more accurately, because it’s something that all those who want more accountable, responsive government want, multi-partisan--I’m a fair voter. By that, I mean that I could never be a member of a political party that did not endorse the principle upon which all PR systems are based--that all voters are equal and, as much as is reasonable, every vote should be reflected in the composition of the legislature.
I'm a New Democrat because it's the party with the ideas that best reflect my personal views. But by far, my strongest political conviction is that everybody deserves the chance to vote for parties and candidates that hold their views. When I watch hundreds of thousands of people across the country voting for the Greens in a federal election and not seeing their votes count, that outrages me. When I watch fiscally conservative voters in Alberta holding their noses and voting for the biggest-spending provincial government Canada has ever had, that outrages me. In the end, it doesn't matter how much these people's views differ from my own--the principle is the same. They deserve a voice. We all do.

And as with Mark, it's in that principle where my true "partisanship" lies.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Liberal confirmation bias

About two years ago, the Liberals spent a bunch of time insisting that the NDP was attacking only them and ignoring the Conservatives. Unfortunately for them, though, it turned out that when you actually started looking at the evidence, a very different picture emerged. That evidence revealed that the NDP was not only criticizing both of their opponents, but was in fact was criticizing the Conservatives quite a bit more frequently than they were criticizing the Liberals. Oops.

This sort of mistaken conclusion can arise because of what in the social sciences is called a confirmation bias. In a nutshell, this is a tendency to look for information that confirms the hypothesis you already hold about a situation, and avoid all the information that contradicts it. In the context of current-day Canadian politics, it's clear how such a bias might come about. The Liberals see the political scene as entirely binary, with the Conservatives as the bad guys and the Liberals as the good guys. The assumption that follows from this is that the NDP (being generally decent folk, if a little misguided) will criticize the bad guys and let the good guys be.

The confirmation bias arises in the varying ways different NDP criticisms are evaluated by Liberals. All NDP criticisms of the Conservatives are ignored--that's just the proper way of things, after all. At the same time, any NDP criticisms of the Liberals are considered unusual and therefore noteworthy. What emerges is a false, yet fervently-accepted-as-true picture in which the NDP is completely refraining from criticizing the Conservatives but directing deadly blasts at the Liberals. This isn't in any way malicious or deliberately deceptive; it's a very normal reaction to falling victim to your own biases about what the world's supposed to look like. It should be clear, though, that without reference to any actual data, everything said along these lines is complete conjecture. And in addition, if the aforementioned track record is anything to go on, it's almost certainly incorrect.

Well, it seems that everything old is new again, and the very same accusations have resurfaced in the wake of the recent by-elections. This time, though, there's no outrage, just a smug "this strategy of yours of attacking the Liberals while ignoring the Conservatives, it's not working!" As before, there's no evidence to back up the notion that such behaviour is even going on. Of course the NDP is attacking the Liberals and ignoring the Conservatives, everybody knows that. And by the way, have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Now, I haven't looked at any data myself, so who knows, they might be right this time. But it's certainly not what I'm seeing through my own, New-Democrat-coloured glasses. Instead, what I'm seeing is the NDP speaking out against everything they disagree with, whether it comes from the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Bloc, or the Greens. Most of the time, these criticisms tend to be statements along the lines that the Conservatives are doing something lousy but the Liberals weren't much better when they were in government, or that the Liberals are doing something that's making it easier for the Conservatives to do something they disagree with. Which doesn't exactly amount to "attacking the Liberals while ignoring the Conservatives."

I'm asking the Liberal bloggers, then, to put up or shut up. Either give us some data to back up your spurious accusations, or quit making them. If it turns out you're right, I'll grant you the point. But I suspect the results of any serious investigation into the matter might surprise you quite a bit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"In no other country on Earth"

For the record, I liked the Obama speech. I thought it was well written, well executed, and most importantly, incredibly effective. For that matter, I agree with John from Dymaxion World about the headshaking nature of the entire situation.

And yet there was one little passage that made me want to go down there and knock some sense into both Obama and his speechwriters him:

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
I'm no fan of patriotic rhetoric in general, but this particular flavour of it always makes me want to retch. The ignorance in it is astonishing. The kind of story Obama is talking about is no more and no less unique than the story of any mixed-race individual in any immigrant nation. There are plenty of Canadians with variants on this story, plenty of Australians, plenty of New Zealanders. Cut the historical timeline down a bit, and these days, there are even Germans, Belgians, French with it. The U.S. just isn't all that special in this regard, sorry. And you know what? That's okay. You don't have to be the "best little country in the whole wide world" in order to produce great leaders with compelling personal stories.

So yes, great speech. Wonderful achievement. But please, I'm begging you, put a lid on the over-the-top exceptionalism. You're embarrassing those of us who actually know something about the world beyond the borders of the United States.

[Update: Apparently, he wrote the speech himself. Oh good, only one person to knock some sense into, then!]

The real by-election story: there is no (single) story

Every blogger and every journalist is going to try to make a story out of tonight's by-election results--the partisan pundits will all try to spin them to make their side look good, and the rest will just try to spin a good yarn. But poring over these numbers, it seems that finding any one cohesive narrative in these results is automatically going to mean ignoring some of the data. Why? Because instead of clear trends, we've got four unique storylines--one for each riding.

Let's start with Willowdale. It's a suburban Toronto riding, with an emphasis, it seems, on both "suburban" and "Toronto":

Though this was already a Liberal stronghold, the Liberals actually saw their vote increase somewhat this time with Martha Hall Findlay carrying their flag. This increase came almost entirely at the expense of the NDP, since the Conservative and Green votes in this riding remained more or less the same.

Moving on to the more urban riding of Toronto-Centre, we see some of the same themes, but also some major differences:
Here, we see a similar increase in the Liberal vote in an already strong Liberal area with Bob Rae at the helm, and again, we see a decrease in the NDP's vote. But in contrast to Willowdale, we also see a sharp upturn in the vote for the Greens under Chris Tindal, who campaigned very hard in this riding, and a sharp downturn in the Tory vote. It seems safe to assume that the Tory vote either stayed home or bled to the Liberals, while the NDP vote bled to both the Liberals and the Greens.

It's a very different story, though, out west. Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River is a rural Saskatchewan riding, which the Liberals won by a hair last time:
Here, we see a substantial upturn in the vote for the Conservatives, to the extent that they could carry it quite easily this time, and a corresponding downturn in the vote for the Liberals. The NDP vote increased by a few points, probably at the expense of the Liberals, but not enough to make a difference--it's clear that most of the voters who fled the Liberals went Tory this time. The Green vote stayed largely the same.

Finally, we have Vancouver-Quadra, the surprise of the night. This is a wealthy urban/suburban riding, which until tonight counted as one of the safest Liberal seats in the country:
Early in the evening, when it looked for a while like the Tory might actually win, I was astounded. Had the Vancouverites suddenly grown some conservative roots? Well, maybe a few, but as you can see from the chart, that Liberal-Tory migration isn't enough to explain the result. The main reason this by-election was so close was a wholesale transfer of Liberal votes to the Greens. The NDP vote, on the other hand, only went down very slightly.

What you can learn from this, then, depends very much on where you are. But it also depends on who you are.

Lessons for the Liberals: In Fortress Toronto, you're fine. Golden, even--at least as long as you've got candidates like Bob Rae and Martha Hall Findlay. You're in a lot more trouble out west, though, and for very different reasons depending on where you are. In the rural areas, you're losing out to the Tories, and in the urban core, you're losing out to the Greens. So there are plenty of things to be pleased with tonight, but it should be clear that you've also got a good deal of building to do out west.

Lessons for the Conservatives: At this point even formerly Liberal rural areas are turning to you, which meant a pickup, this time. The thing is, it's still rural voters, which isn't anything terribly new or surprising. In the urban areas, things look quite a bit different: out west and in the Toronto suburbs you're gaining, but not enough to make you a winner, and in the core of Canada's largest city, they actually kind of hate you. So go ahead and be pleased about your single win, but if you try to spin that as part of a larger trend where all roads lead to the Tories, you're fooling no one but yourselves.

Lessons for the NDP: You held on nicely to your vote out west, both in urban Vancouver and in rural Saskatchewan. In Toronto, though, you are pretty much in deep doggy doo-doo, at least when you're running against big-name Liberals. Since the NDP is only an associate member of the Toronto club, this shouldn't be taken as any kind of indication for the overall NDP vote in a general election, but it could make a big difference in particular ridings. Specifically, if I'm Olivia Chow or (especially) Peggy Nash tonight, I'm starting to get seriously worried.

Lessons for the Greens: You massively increased your vote in the two urban areas, so much so that you can call tonight a victory-by-the-numbers and party down. But in suburban Willowdale and in rural Saskatchewan, the increase in your vote was negligible. It's not a decrease, so there's nothing to worry about, but you'd be advised against getting too cocky. You've yet to really sell yourselves beyond the country's urban core, and reaching out to rural and suburban voters should be your next step.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My biggest disappointment of the night the fact that the Canadian political blogosphere seems to have collectively learned how to spell 'by-election'. No more giggles for me! Sniff.

Will you guys at least promise to throw me the occasional 'literally' bone? Pretty please?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When linguistic variation goes too far

All right, enough is enough. Yes, Canadians say 'paesta' while Americans say 'pahsta', and 'Maezda' while Americans say 'Mahzda.' That's all perfectly fine, and all within the range of normal regional variation. But for once and for all, no matter how cool you may think he is, Mr. Audacity of Hope is, in fact, an American. Therefore, there is only one correct way to pronounce his name, and that way is not 'BARAECK OBAEMA.'

Electoral reform in the UK?

Unlike in Canada, the first-past-the-post system in the United Kingdom has always managed to produce massive manufactured majority wins for a single political party (see the second chart here), despite their multiparty reality. You can follow that link for more insight as to why the same voting system works so differently here and there, but it turns out it may not be long before those differences become moot.

The UK Labour party under Gordon Brown isn't enjoying the same level of support as it did under Tony Blair, see, and it's not at all unlikely that our reality could become theirs after the next election, with no single party being able to get a majority of the seats in Parliament. Unlike in Canada, though, the British way of dealing with a so-called "hung parliament" seems to be to ponder potential coalition governments rather than automatically giving the minority winner the reins all on their own. And the Independent (hat tip to Fruits and Votes) is now reporting that Nick Clegg, leader of the third-party Liberal Democrats, is setting electoral reform as one of the preconditions to any future power-sharing negotiations.

I shouldn't have to point out how exciting it would be for the Canadian electoral reform movement if the "motherland" and creator of Westminster parliamentary democracy were to adopt a proportional voting system.

Blogging partisans and partisan blogs, take two

This morning, Jason Cherniak wrote a post indirectly admonishing some of the Liberal bloggers who have been critical of the party. "Is your blog helping the cause or hurting it?" he asks. In response, a couple of the Liberal bloggers who felt addressed by that admonishment fought back. Steve V from Far and Wide sees what Jason's doing as yielding all other considerations to appearances, and Scott Tribe from Scott's DiaTribes is crying self-censorship.

Personally, I think they're all kind of talking past each other.

For me, it all comes down to the difference between blogging partisans and partisan blogs. Jason Cherniak clearly has a partisan blog--he's said himself that the reason he blogs in the first place is for "partisan service." When you read his blog, you know that what you're going to get is the party line. Some of the Liberals who feel criticized, on the other hand, are bloggers who just happen to be partisan Liberals. They're blogging for any number of reasons: because they enjoy writing, because they want to put their opinions out there and toss them around with other political geeks, &etc.--but not for partisan service.

When Jason asks whether other Liberals' blogs are "helping the cause or hurting it," then, he's making the false assumption that all bloggers have the same "cause" he has. This clearly isn't the case. On the other hand, when Liberal bloggers who don't have "partisan blogs" decry Jason's actions as "elitist" and criticize him for not being willing to voice his own opinion, they're missing the point on what he is trying to do with his blog. Personally, I don't much care for "partisan blogs" (there's only one on my entire blogroll), but there's nothing wrong with having partisan service as the goal of one's blogging, right? Bloggers like Jason Cherniak aren't failing to properly inform others of their individual personal opinions, just as
bloggers like Far and Wide aren't failing to adhere to the rules of "Communications 101." The two groups are actually trying to do entirely different things.

From where I sit, the real issue is that we all have to read at least a few different posts by any given blogger to figure out which side of the "blogging partisan vs. partisan blog" line they stand on. Both kinds of blogs are in the same communities and aggregators, after all. And because of that, we all tend to forget that not everybody is in this for the same reasons we are.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fair Vote Alberta event with Shoni Field

Fair Vote Alberta, the provincial wing of Fair Vote Canada, will be hosting an event with former B.C. Citizens' Assembly member Shoni Field. Shoni will be talking to us about her experiences on the Assembly and its applicability to Alberta. There will be plenty of time after her talk for Q&A.

Place: Strathcona Public Library (8331-104 Street), Edmonton
Date: Wednesday, March 19th
Time: 7:00 PM

If you're in Edmonton or can get here, please come out and meet Shoni, talk about electoral reform, and support Fair Vote Alberta! (Also, if you like our pretty, pretty new website, be sure to tell Kuri from Thought, Interrupted by Typos how much her design skills rock.)

Where are the Greens?

Some people are dubbing the recent climate change confidence motion, put forward by the NDP, as an attempt to trap the Liberals on an issue they want to own. It's hard to argue that this wasn't at least one of the origins of the motion, but it's equally hard to argue that the Liberals shouldn't have been able to vote for the text of the motion without even thinking. And the fact that they refused to do so has been cause for plenty of criticism among Liberal bloggers, to their great credit.

Perhaps understandably, the more high-profile Liberals haven't been quite so candid. But it's more than just Liberal MPs and candidates who have been silent on this issue--the Green Party of Canada has also been completely mum, despite the environment being their raison d'être. There's been no official statement from Green leader Elizabeth May on the subject of this motion, and there's nothing at all about it on the party website. And if you don't think that sounds at least a little bit strange, just imagine for a moment how different things would have been if the roles had been reversed. If the Liberals had put forward a confidence motion about the Conservatives' poor record on climate change, and the NDP had abstained on it, can you imagine for one second that the Greens wouldn't have been all over it? "Parliamentary games" or no?

The point of this post is bigger than a New Democrat whining about how the Greens attack the NDP while sparing the Liberals, though, so I'll cut to the chase. Both Stéphane Dion and Elizabeth May have been utterly insistent that their non-compete pact is limited to each of them not running in the other's riding. If that's the case, then, why on earth is the Green Party so silent on this matter? I can understand that they wouldn't want to help the NDP, but an election fought on climate change would arguably have benefitted them far more than the NDP anyway. I've been racking my brain trying to think of a reason why they wouldn't want to address this, and the only thing I can come up with is that they don't want to damage the Liberals. Which is very odd behaviour for what is ostensibly a completely separate political party trying to compete with the Liberals.

I have no proof that there's anything hinky going on, of course, but it makes me wonder. And I can't help but think about how all the former Liberal voters who are now turning to the Greens are going to feel if it turns out the two-riding non-compete pact really was a prelude to something a whole lot bigger.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Unite the left": a response to daveberta

There's nothing more predictable than Canadians talking about party mergers after an election where things didn't go their way, and this Alberta election has been no different. I mostly ignore that kind of talk--I think so drastically differently about this sort of thing that there's simply no common ground for conversation. But daveberta has a thoughtful post about the topic that's at least worth addressing, even though I can't agree with a lot of it. So here's a response to each of his six points, one by one.

1. Bad blood. I completely agree that there's a lot of unnecessary bad blood between the Alberta Liberals and the Alberta NDP--when one party is openly calling the other "irrelevant" and the other party is equating the first party with their archrivals, there's not much room for détente. But bad blood isn't the only obstacle to a merger, or even the biggest one. The only reason to ever merge parties is when there are negligible, if any, differences between them (the Wild Rose Party and the Alberta Alliance spring to mind). It's never a good idea to merge parties when the party memberships have very different opinions about all sorts of things, and there is a world of difference, both policy-wise and party-culturally, between the Alberta Liberals and the Alberta NDP.

2. It's aiming at the wrong target. Dave tells us that "with voter turnout at 41%, I'd be willing to suggest that all the parties are scraping the bottom of their support-levels and need to look at the 59% of non-voting Albertans for growth." I completely agree. The first response to this election, for all parties, needs to be to figure out who those non-voters are and why they're not voting. There have been a lot of hypotheses tossed around about that, but at this point, that's all they are.

3. Pass the vote. Dave argues that a merged party could easily occupy a much smaller part of the political spectrum, and leave a lot of Albertans without a party to vote for. I couldn't agree with this more strongly. Trying to unify such diverse groups under one big tent, even if it were to work, would marginalize a whole big whack of Albertans. This might not matter to those whose political opinions would be encompassed by the hypothetical new party, but believe me, it matters to the rest of us. We can't let that kind of kludge fix be our response to a very real problem.

4. Greens on the left? Dave argues that the Alberta Greens--especially the 22% of voters in Lacombe-Ponoka who gave the party its biggest non-victory victory yet--are not actually very left-wing. I agree with that, and furthermore, I'd argue that this has to be okay with those of us who are left-wing. Trying to shoehorn them into models that work for us but don't work for them is neither fair nor productive.

5. Different aims. Dave says that "it's clear that the Alberta Liberals are in it to form government, but I'm not sure that's the same goal of the New Democrats." I wouldn't phrase it this way at all, but I do think he's on to something. In fact, I'd argue that nothing epitomizes this difference more than his statement that "party archetypes in both camps really need to put aside their biases and prejudices and take a serious and objective look at why their parties are not connecting with Albertans." What am I (or for that matter, what is he), chopped liver?

It has always been a puzzle for me that Canadians in big-tent parties assume that a party that never gets the largest share of the vote "isn't connecting with the people." In fact, if you add up the ~10% of the vote the Alberta NDP tends to take and the ~28% of the vote the Alberta Liberals tend to take, that's a good 38% of Albertans who suddenly don't count as "people" in sentences like those. And I have to say, this attitude is especially frustrating for me as someone who's lived in a country like Germany, where parties like the Greens (at 8%) and the Free Democrats (at 10%) would never think they need to raise their vote totals to 40% or more or else give up entirely on representing the people who support what they believe in.

In any case, the notion that the NDP "doesn't want power" is a silly one--all political parties want power. But "power" is a much larger concept than "forming a majority government all by our little selves." There are lots of models for taking power, and even forming government, that don't require that. By that token, my big recommendation on this front is to think outside the box. Which might well mean looking beyond the borders of this country for possible answers and thereby moving outside of our comfortable Canadian merger-utopia narratives.

6. First-past-the-post. I have to nitpicky-quibble with Dave's talk of changing the system to "STV or PR" (proportional representation is a category of electoral systems, of which STV is one specific example), but I do agree with the sentiment. The only long-term, non-kludge fix to the problem of representation in Alberta is electoral reform. It's is the only thing that's going to make our legislature look like what we actually vote for. Shoehorning in a kludge fix when there's a legitimately available real fix is like tying your car's engine together with twine.

On the other hand, since electoral reform isn't going to happen tomorrow, the short-term solution to making our legislature look a lot more like what Albertans want to vote for isn't fewer parties on the left, but more parties on the right. Right now, the PCs stand for very little other than keeping themselves in power, and they're such a big tent that the actual right in Alberta feels completely alienated. Like it or not, those people deserve to have a party they can really support, too--and it would have the additional advantage of levelling the first-past-the-post playing field a lot more. It wouldn't be perfectly representative, but it would be more so than what we have, in the short term.

Six bits of IP trivia

I've been tagged for the "six unimportant/trivial things about me" meme by both Candace and Ben. I kind of already did this one once with personal stuff, though, and I'm reluctant to fill the world with still more irrelevant personal trivia about me. So rather than be a killjoy and just ignore their tags, I'm going to compromise by making this about IP-related trivia that's political or bloggy.

1. I get ridiculously annoyed when other bloggers refer to me or my blog as anything but "Idealistic Pragmatist" or "IP," even if it's an honest mistake (so now you know how to annoy me if you want to!). Thankfully, though, most people do in fact call me one or the other of those...and oddly enough, that even extends to face-to-face interaction. In fact, I attended a blogstravaganza in Ontario once where I introduced myself to everyone by my real first name, and they spent the rest of the evening calling me "IP." This still amuses me today.

2. Speaking of blogstravaganzas in Ontario: I spend a month out of every summer in Waterloo for work-related reasons, and every year when I'm there, I manage to get together with other bloggers. We always have a great time, and our colourful mixture of political stripes always produces some really interesting conversations. Strangely enough, though, the Edmonton bloggers have never done this, even though we seem to get along well enough online. I have no idea why that is, but it seems like a crazy oversight.

3. I am a lot more partisan than I've been told I come across in this blog. There are three main reasons why this doesn't shine through here: one, I want this blog to always reflect my personal opinions rather than those of my party, so I don't let myself use it to score cheap political points (even when I desperately want to). Two, I think people are more likely to take what I say here seriously if I can distance myself from the blind partisanship of a lot of political blogging. Three, I think maintaining that slight distance makes for better persuasive writing.

4. Despite my own personal partisanship, I've never been able to bring myself to unequivocally tell random strangers that they should vote for my party. I believe strongly that people should vote for the party whose policies they like best, see, and that conviction is stronger than my partisanship. At times, in fact, I have been known to tell people: "well, if you think that, then you should vote for [x party that is not the NDP]"--a tendency that annoys a lot of my NDP friends in real life! I can't help it, though. I really do think having a diversity of choice is more important than everybody agreeing with me, and I'm glad when people who don't agree with me have choices they can support, too. Everybody should have that.

5. When I lived in the U.S., I used to wake up on election day with a sick sense of dread in my stomach. Part of it was the inevitable long lines at the polls and the overworked-rudeness of the people in charge, but most of it was the severe limitation on my choice that always made voting feel like some sort of bad medicine. In Canada, though, I've actually gotten tears in my eyes each of the three times I've voted (once federally, once municipally, once provincially) due to just how different the whole thing feels. I'm sure that someday it will seem completely banal to be able to go behind the screen and check an "x" in the box of a candidate I actually can believe in, but I'm not there yet.

6. If I could change only one thing about the Canadian political scene, it would be the near-complete inability of public servants to put the fortunes of their parties aside long enough to admit that there are areas where they agree enough to work together. I hate this so much, words can't even express it. In fact, when the Conservatives and the Liberals reached their agreement on Afghanistan, I found myself caught between profoundly disagreeing with what they came up with and wanting to applaud them for actually being able to admit that they had common ground. This country has such blinders on when it comes to political cooperation, it's appalling. It's a huge, huge cultural blind spot, and it's the most destructive thing about our politics.

Tag, you're it:
1. Mushroom
2. Gauntlet
3. skdadl from pogge
4. We Move to Canada
5. ALW
6. Blogging for Democracy

Friday, March 07, 2008

Insulted or amused?

Apparently, I am a "sometimes loyal to a fault Liblogger," and one of "the most loyal members of the Liberal base."

I have to say, I've been called a lot of names in my day, but never that.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Liberal entitlement at its finest

Oh, Liberals. Almost two years later, and still on the same old tirade? Honestly, if you really have nothing newer to slam the NDP and the Bloc with than "you guys kicked us out back in November of 2005, thereby giving the voters the chance to pick somebody they liked better," then they must be doing something right.

The best part, though, has got to be the wording. The House of Commons is being asked to "condemn the irresponsible and self-serving actions on Nov. 25, 2005 by the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois which led to the installation of a government that is hostile to the rights and needs of vulnerable Canadians" (emphasis mine). Liberal governments are elected, but other kinds of governments--those are installed. Because if anybody gets in but the Liberals, there must have been some terrible mistake. Like a coup d'état, maybe, or a seekrit scandal involving millions of forged ballots.

If this were happening just a few weeks later, I'd swear it was an April Fool's joke. They're at the point where they're writing Rick Mercer's material for him.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"That may be where this is headed"

Many U.S. Democrats have been salivating over the thought of a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket--the idea being that they wouldn't have to choose between the two figures their party clearly seems to like, just in different ways. Up until now, though, it's been very much a fantasy. It's awfully hard to imagine either of these two settling for the vice presidential nomination after coming so close to winning the presidential one, after all.

But I have to wonder whether there have been initial talks behind the scenes or something, after this quote from Clinton:

On The Early Show, co-anchor Harry Smith said to Clinton, "We talked to a lot of people in Ohio who said there really isn't that significant a difference between you two, and they'd like to see you both on the ticket."

"Well, that may, you know, be where this is headed," Clinton said. "But of course, we have to decide who's on the top of the ticket, and I think that the people of Ohio very clearly said that it should be me."
Hmmm. Iiiiinteresting. It would certainly be a good way of maximizing the excitement that's built up around this race among Democrats and their supporters, without anyone feeling like the loser.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Not Voting party wins the day

Alison at Creekside has invited me to comment on the disproportionality of the Alberta election results. There's no way I could top Kuri's post on that subject (with a twist!) over at thought, interrupted by typos, though, so I won't even try.

Alberta election redux, all partisanship aside

The expected and negative:

The Tories won a majority of the seats. Honestly, until the votes cast in Edmonton and Calgary start counting as much as the ones cast in the rural areas, there's not much that can be done about that, even in elections where every little thing doesn't go their way.

Turnout was well down even from what the Alberta turnout normally is: a mere 41%.

The unexpected and negative:

Where should I even begin?

The Tories won a majority of the vote. Not by a lot, but 53% is still an absolute majority. I didn't have terribly high hopes for this election, but I certainly expected the vote percentage to go down under Stelmach, not up.

The NDP caucus was cut in half. The Liberal caucus was also cut in half. The sole Wildrose-Alliance party seat was lost to the Tory wave. All in all, this makes for a massively weakened opposition, and a kick in the crotch to democracy.

No hint of the much-ballyhooed Liberal gains in Calgary. I'm no Liberal, but I admit that I believed the hype.

Even in "Redmonton," only the core urban constituencies remained various shades of red and orange.

As for individual seats, the biggest single loss is David Eggen, and yes, that works even in an "all partisanship aside" post. That man has been the hardest-working MLA in the legislature, and if anyone deserved to win reelection this time around, it was him. And the runner-up may well be the Liberals' Mo Esalhy, for whom I have the profoundest respect. Lots of good people lost their seats this time, but those are the two that stand out as completely tragic.

The expected and positive:

Edmonton-Strathcona's new MLA is the marvelous Rachel Notley, with close to 50% of the vote. A lot of New Democrats are fond of saying "the legislature needs a Notley," but for me it's very much "the legislature needs RACHEL Notley," and I couldn't be prouder to have this amazing woman as my MLA. (Confidential to Mr. Berta: Seriously, all partisanship aside. Give her another look with less partisan glasses once the pain of this loss wears off, and I think you'll see what I see. Even if you never let yourself admit it.)

One of the Tory gains was Janice Sarich. I don't agree with her about pretty much any of the core issues, but I appreciate the way she has reached out to the agents of democratic reform in this province, and occasionally even counted herself among them. She's been a surprisingly positive force in this province as a civilian, and presuming Ed Stelmach doesn't surgically remove her spine as soon as she gets sworn in, I think she'll be a positive force in that caucus, too.

The unexpected and positive:


I got nothin'.