Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Friday, December 17, 2004

King Ralph

I tried to paint a portrait of Our Esteemed Premier last night in an attempt to convince a friend that, while the right wing in Canada are nowhere near as far right as their U.S. equivalents, they are no less crazy. She didn't seem to be buying it, but I was more than a little brain-dead after a long day of work and not terribly eloquent. I'm going to try to do a better job now.

Klein (whose name, incidentally, means 'small' in German, which he is not), the son of a professional wrestler, dropped out of high school before beginning his political life as the mayor of Calgary. Now, Alberta has a lot of oil, and the business end of things is primarily located in that city, so while he was mayor a lot of people moved there from the eastern parts of Canada. As the most visible civic politician, did he roll out the welcome mat for them? Of course not -- he preferred to refer to them as "eastern bums and scums" and blamed them for straining the city's social services.

He was elected member of Alberta's Legislative Assembly in 1989 and immediately became Minister of the Environment, setting the stage for his future opposition to the Kyoto Accord. He became premier (the Canadian equivalent of the American governor) of Alberta in 1992 and has sat on the throne ever since. In a reference to the Hollywood film of the same name, he has been dubbed 'King Ralph,' due primarily to the uniquely Albertan penchant for electing political dynasties. After he assumed office, Klein passed a law mandating a balanced budget and requiring that three-quarters of any budget surplus be used to pay off debt. Despite the fact that Alberta was and remains Canada's wealthiest province, this was a heavy blow, and healthcare and education funding were the first things to suffer.

Klein's approach to governance may be draconian, but it's his personality, not his policies, that he's best known for. His "colourful" behaviour from his stint as Calgary mayor only got worse after he made the switch into provincial politics. Among his most shining moments:

  • Just before Christmas one year, he dropped by an Edmonton homeless shelter, extremely drunk, and verbally abused the residents, offering them all "bus tickets to Vancouver" where they could enjoy the superior social assistance of the province of British Columbia. After the story broke, he admitted that he was an alcoholic (not news to anyone who had ever seen him in public) and vowed to do his best never to drink again.

  • When a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Alberta, he stated openly that the rancher in question should have "shot, shovelled and shut up."

  • In an apparent attempt to recover from his early educational deficiencies, Klein decided to get a communications degree at Athabasca University's Edmonton campus. This would have been a noble effort if he hadn't been caught plagiarizing huge portions of an essay he turned in about Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

  • He does seem to know something about Pinochet, though -- in a debate on the floor of the legislature, he compared the notion of government-run car insurance to Chile's Salvador Allende nationalizing the country's copper mines. After this socialist horror, Klein said, Pinochet was "forced to mount a coup."

  • One fine spring day, Ralph decided to take a private government plane clear across the country to a golf resort, where he apparently had important golf-related meetings with various business leaders. When questions arose about whether his party or the taxpayers had funded the trip, one of the other members of the legislature suggested that he provide receipts to back up his statements. He became belligerent, repeating "Is she calling me a liar?" and "You don't believe me?" at least five times before finally saying that he'd consider her request.

  • He grudgingly attended an all-premiers' health summit with the Prime Minister in Ottawa during the 2004 provincial election, but left in the middle of a pre-summit dinner in order to go gambling at a casino across the river in Quebec. He also left the summit after only one day, insisting that "there's no bloody votes down there anyway."

  • During the same campaign, when two Albertan women complained to him that their monthly disability payments were barely enough to live on, he accused them of "yipping" and said they "didn't look severely handicapped" to him because they were both wearing cowboy hats and smoking cigarettes. He subsequently stated that his government would weed out "undeserving" people who were "abusing the system." When asked about this incident, he insisted that nobody who was "normal" would even want to talk about this issue.

  • A fierce opponent of same-sex marriage, Klein at first insisted that there should be a nationwide referendum on the issue. Since that didn't fly, he's now decided to take a trip across Canada trying to stir up opposition and block passage of the federal government's forthcoming legislation making same-sex marriage legal across the country. But you know, he's not a bigot. He has "friends" who are gay and declares them to be "wonderful people." He's even stated that he feels that "gays and lesbians ought not to be discriminated against in any other form other than marriage." Thanks for clarifying that, Ralph.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Canadian immigration resources, by popular demand

I woke up this morning with an inbox full of requests for information about how to immigrate to Canada. I'm willing to provide that information, but first, a disclaimer:

Emigration is a long, tedious, annoying, and expensive process, and as such it's not something to be undertaken on a whim. It's also not enough to have reached the conclusion that you can no longer believe in the U.S.; you also have to be willing to believe in Canada. In order to emigrate, you also have to immigrate, and that isn't about despair, it's about hope. In the end it has to be about more than giving up on something; it has to be about being willing and eager to invest yourself wholeheartedly in something new.

In other words, if you still retain a belief that the United States is the best country in the world, then save yourself the trouble and stick around. Stand up and fight, and help make some of the things you stand for happen. (I, for one, will be cheering you on: I'm rather fond of the United States and I'd sure like to see what that country would look like after an organized left has its way with it.) If, on the other hand, you look north and see a country that you feel you could genuinely contribute to, with values you believe in and ideologies and a political system that you can embrace, then by all means you should consider immigration to Canada. I did it, and I'm glad I did.

This is the Citizenship and Immigration Canada main site. You will want to have a long look at the types of immigration there are; most of you will be most suited for the "skilled worker class immigration." The site contains a very simple test you can take to see whether your application is likely to be accepted in that category. It's based on a points system, and although it's changed a little since I immigrated, it's still the same basic idea.

Here is the official site's companion piece, a list of frequently-asked questions about Canadian immigration. It's actually the page of a private immigration lawyer, but he's long maintained the best additional source of easy-to-understand information around, and he's quite well respected among people who've actually Done It.

LEGIT is a volunteer-run grassroots lobby and support group which exists to help same-sex couples (or Canadians and their same-sex partners) immigrate to Canada. Questions about how the same-sex marriage rulings in either country would affect your application? Ask them.

If you're not ready to immigrate, but want to try working in Canada for a while to see whether it's a place you want to invest that kind of commitment in, then you might want to consider a TN or NAFTA visa for professionals. Basically the idea is that once you have a job offer to work for a Canadian company in your chosen profession, you can get a visa like this very easily. There are no long wait times or expensive application fees, as with actual immigration. The visa is granted for a year but as far as I know it can be renewed more or less indefinitely (as long as you're willing to live in a country where you have no permanent status, which in my experience got very old very quickly, but hey, it might be your bag). There's more information about this type of visa to be found here -- though it's actually a site intended for Canadians who want to live temporarily in the U.S., it's the same visa going either way. I also know a few people who are currently working under this visa who might be willing to answer questions about their experiences if you wanted to ask them.

This is a site about one woman and her family's personal experience with coming to Canada on the skilled worker class of immigration, though it was called something different when she did it. The other sites will give you all the official details, but this one will tell you what it's really like to actually do it. I found it invaluable when I came here.

After you've lived in Canada as a permanent resident for a certain length of time, you can apply for citizenship, which gives you all the rights of a Canadian-born Canadian. If you're like me, you'll want to keep your American citizenship as well. The dual citizenship FAQ can answer any questions you might have about that.

And finally, there's An American's Guide to Canada, an occasionally tongue-in-cheek picture of the kinds of things that seem weird to Americans about my adopted country. It's a fun site, and informative as well.

Best of luck in your decision.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This time he's really lost it

I'm not a Liberal, but Sheila Copps has always been one of the ones I've liked. She manages to strike just the right balance between a hardball, take-no-prisoners attitude and the politics of compassion, which is hard for anyone. She's got her pet issues, but they're much less personal than with a lot of politicians, and she really listens to people. Unfortunately for Sheila, especially as a Chrétien loyalist, she had the unmitigated gall to run against Paul Martin for the leadership of the party, and earlier this year, he cut her off at the knees as payback. First he demoted her, then he forced her out of her riding of Hamilton-Stoney Creek in a bitter nomination battle that was won by Martin supporter Tony Valeri. Sheila's EA defected to the NDP, and she even thought about heading there herself, though eventually she opted not to and headed home to Hamilton instead. When the election rolled around, the level of Valeri hatredmany bitter Liberals crossed party lines, and in the end the man won, but only by a few votes. But people loved Sheila, and Valeri's not going to be forgiven that easily. An awful lot of people, non-Liberals and Liberals alike, have been using him as a punching bag.

For weeks, there has been speculation about who our esteemed prime minister was going to appoint to cabinet, and much of that speculation has centred around who would take the position of house leader. In a minority government, the relatively piddly job of house leader becomes a huge task that involves being a diplomacy-oriented politico who's widely respected and plays well with others, both from different factions within the party and from other parties. In the words of the Globe and Mail: Although not normally a jewel coveted by cabinet ministers, the House leader's role will take on new importance because the Liberals must cut deals with the opposition to pass the Martin agenda and prevent the government from falling in any confidence vote. A lot of pundits thought Martin would probably make his longtime friend, supporter, and all-around nice guy Ralph Goodale house leader, moving him out of the position of finance minister.

This morning, Martin appointed his cabinet. The house leader is not, in fact, going to be Ralph Goodale. Guess who it's going to be instead?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Those waaaacky Liberals

National Post headline: Liberals discuss engineering own minority defeat; election within two years

Liberals are already predicting a self-induced implosion of the minority Parliament followed by a federal election in 2005, just two weeks after a wary electorate slapped them down to minority status.

Party insiders - including several MPs and political staff - said the talk at Wednesday's post-election caucus gathering focused on how they might seize an opportune moment next year to trigger an election.

"We're gearing up," said one Liberal MP who asked to remain anonymous.

"It'll be one year, a year and a half, and we're going back."

Those private predictions fly in the face of assurances by Prime Minister Paul Martin that voters want to see their minority Parliament succeed and last.

But some Liberals are already predicting they will wait for a spike in popularity, then trigger their own defeat in Parliament over a bill designed to provoke the Bloc Quebecois.

Remember what I said about how the Liberals would have to do absolutely everything right between now and the next election if they really want to stay in power? How they have to act chastened and play nicely with others? This would, um, not qualify.

Citizenship takes ten months, or so they tell me. Between this and the fact that Jack Layton *still* hasn't gotten a call from the prime minister, I'm beginning to fear that the date I applied wasn't soon enough for me to be able to vote next time, after all.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Two myths and a nightmare disguised as a dream

1. The myth of western homogeneity

Since the election, there has been a lot of media coverage about "the West" and how damn different they are from the rest of Canada in electing all those Conservatives. In response, there has also been a lot of grumbling about tossing the whole of western Canada into one pot, saying that they're making "the West" out to be synonymous with Alberta. A quick glance at the numbers, and you can see that the grumblers have a point. In British Columbia, Conservatives took 36.25% of the vote, Liberals 28.57% of the vote, and the NDP 26.54% of the vote. In Saskatchewan the picture is a little bit different, but the pattern is still clear: CON 41.81/LIB 27.16/NDP 23.26, and Manitoba looks an awful lot like Saskatchewan at CON 39.13/LIB 33.20/NDP 23.46.

It's Alberta where the numbers look so different: CON 61.64/LIB 21.98/NDP 9.54. There's more going on here than the sheer number of Conservative voters, too, which is what Albertans are known for. If you look at the Liberal vote percentage, it actually doesn't look all that different from the other western provinces. However, the entire vote is shifted to the right, with leftists turning Liberal and a more or less completely inviable NDP. Although the result in all of western Canada is that there are a lot of seats won by Conservatives, there are two very different things going on. While Alberta is actually as right-wing as everybody thinks they are, what's going on in the rest of western Canada is a split left, where the Liberals and the NDP are constantly battling for the same voters and the Conservatives get the rest. This contrasts sharply with, say, Ontario, where the left is much more united behind the Liberals and the relative percentages look like this: LIB 44.67/CON 31.47/NDP 18.09.

2. The myth of Alberta homogeneity

From the numbers above, it looks for all the world as if there were only one kind of riding in Alberta: the kind of riding that elects Conservatives by overwhelming margins. Though that's certainly true outside of the capital city, within Edmonton itself there are also two other, very different, kinds of ridings. The first of these is the kind of riding where the vote splits pretty evenly among the Liberals and the Conservatives. In Edmonton-Centre, for example, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan's seat, the vote looked like this: Liberals 42.49/Conservatives 41.15/NDP 9.11. Note that as with the Alberta vote overall, one of the things that characterizes this sort of riding is a completely inviable NDP -- these ridings are clearly two-party ridings. David Kilgour's current post, Edmonton-Beaumont, is also this sort of riding, as is, to a lesser extent, Edmonton-East.

There is also a third kind of Alberta riding, however, and because there's only one that patterns like this, it's easy for it to get lost in the shuffle. In Edmonton-Strathcona, if you were to combine the 29.02% of the vote taken by the Liberal candidate with the 23.81% of the vote taken by the NDP candidate, you'd get something *well* over the 39.4% taken by the winning Conservative candidate, Rahim Jaffer. It's not a conservative riding like most of Alberta, nor is it a split riding like Edmonton-Centre. It's a truly divided riding where all three major parties are politically viable (it's actually held on the provincial level by Alberta NDP leader Raj Pannu), and the Conservative has a hold on the seat only because of the split left. If this sounds familiar, it should -- Edmonton-Strathcona looks an awful lot like B.C., Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

3. Uniting the left: dream or nightmare?

So, I can hear some of you saying, isn't the solution for places like B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Edmonton-Strathcona to unite the left behind the Liberals, as they have in places like Ontario and Edmonton-Centre? A Liberal friend of mine would certainly agree with that -- when the writ was dropped this year, she said that the NDP should just throw their weight behind the Liberal candidates and send a couple more Conservatives home. While I agree that it would be kind of fun to send a couple more Conservatives home, uniting the left isn't the answer. For one thing, the Liberals aren't "left"; they're a centrist party. Uniting the left in a *coalition* would be lovely, but if the Liberals engulfed the NDP altogether, it would only make the entire country poorer. There's certainly a place for centrists, but I for one am glad that genuine leftists don't have to hold their noses when they vote (even if they do end up choosing to do so en masse in Ontario and certain Edmonton ridings).

Which brings me to my second point, which is that if we had one major political party on the left and one major political party on the right, how would that be any different from what they have in the United States? No, thank you, my friends; the existence of a true social democratic party in Canada was a major draw for me, and without them, I might as well never have emigrated. A two-party system would be positively un-Canadian, and the day all of Canada unites the Canadian left under a centrist banner is the day I pick up and leave for New Zealand. I'm happy to live in a riding with a viable NDP, even if it means sending a Conservative to Ottawa.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Why your rejoicing might be premature

Okay, so much for silence until the recounts are all in. At the risk of having my idealist card taken away from me completely, I want to talk a little bit about why the final seat count (Liberals 135, Conservatives 99, Bloc Quebecois 54, NDP 19, Independent 1) isn't the joyous occasion some of you are making it out to be, and why the alternate outcome of a Conservative minority might actually turn out to have been preferable. I may be wrong (and I sincerely hope I am!), but I feel that it has to be mentioned, even though I'll probably make myself sound like a hopeless curmudgeonly pessimist who isn't satisfied with anything short of her ideal scenario of a Liberal-NDP coalition government.

First, the misconception a few of you have brought up (and which you all seem to share with Michael Moore, Dan Savage, and Ralph Nader) that a Conservative minority government would have signified an irreversible swing to the right on the part of the haven of liberalism north of the U.S. border. Yes, there are small pockets of conservatives in Canada, and yes, a few of them are even dreaded social conservatives, but on the whole this is not, and is never likely to be, a truly conservative country. If Canadians had given the Conservatives a minority government yesterday, it wouldn't have expressed their confidence in conservatism, it would have been the outcome of voting to punish the Liberals for the sponsorship scandal. Throughout this campaign, in poll after poll, when asked what kind of government they would prefer irrespective of how they were going to vote, Canadians said that they wanted a Liberal minority government. They tried to vote in such a way as to achieve that kind of slap to the Liberals without making Stephen Harper prime minister, and they managed it. But we have to keep in mind that if those voting strategies had failed and Stephen Harper *had* become prime minister, it ultimately might not have been such a bad thing. A slight Conservative minority wouldn't have found any allies to help them accomplish anything, there would have almost certainly been a vote of no confidence after less than a year, and the Conservatives would have had the shackles of a failed government on them in the subsequent election.

Next, the converse misconception that this outcome is a big win for the Liberals (a misconception which, incidentally, Paul Martin himself seems to be suffering from). Yes, they did much better than the pollsters and pundits expected, and yes, this does indicate that Canadians still want the Liberals to govern as long as they remain chastened. But in the long term they're still in major danger, and in fact, this may ultimately be the worst possible outcome for them. If either they or the NDP had gained just one more seat (and they almostdid), they could have formed a relatively stable coalition government, but as things stand, they can't. This means deciding everything on an issue-by-issue basis and working with not only the NDP, but with individual members of the Bloc, moderate Conservatives, and, if he stays independent, former Alliance MP Chuck Cadman. Though the strength of their minority will certainly make for a somewhat more stable situation than the slight Conservative minority I outlined above would have been, they still have the judicial inquiry into the sponsorship scandal to get through. Paul Martin now has the nearly impossible task of convincing Canadians that the sponsorship scandal was all the fault of Chrétien and his people, but without alienating any of those people, since that's done nothing but bite him in the ass so far. And he has to do all this not only while a bunch of judges are rooting around in his political past, trying to make mud stick to him, but also with no clear allies that he can stomach. I wish the man luck; he's going to need it. Unless he's got a rabbit's foot in his pocket *and* makes not even the slightest political misstep over the next year or so, the Liberals could very well suffer a similar fate to the hypothetical one I outlined for the Tories in the last paragraph. Even though Canadians aren't very conservative, they've certainly indicated here that they're willing to vote Conservative if the Liberals give them enough cause to doubt them. And in a democracy, you don't get what you wish for, you get what you vote for.

Reactions from the blogosphere:

Chris Jones from Points of Information: "Very interesting numbers and here's why."

Kevin Brennan from Tilting at Windmills: "What a difference a few seats makes."

James Bow: "Miss Clarkson, he's pushing me!"

Vicki Smith from Just In From Cowtown (a fellow American-in-Alberta, incidentally): "Each party accomplished something significant."

Sean from sean incognito: "It's been reported than 30% of electors voted not for their first choice, but for their second. I was one of these."

Andrew Coyne: "The biggest winner in this election is the Left."

Don from Revolutionary Moderation: "Saskatchewan should be a coalmine canary for the New Democrats."

Warren Kinsella: "Few people were aware of vote shifts heading into the weekend."

The Middleman: "I feel like I had sex with a gorgeous hooker last night ."

Monday, June 28, 2004

So, we had this little election today

My goodness. I suddenly feel like such a pessimist.

My problem is that once I let myself start to dream, I start to dream big, and when I dream big, I inevitably end up disappointed. So you'll forgive me if I don't have anything insightful (or even coherent) to say about this outcome. I'm not even going to spell out what the possibilities are lest I jinx a very tenuous situation; the numbers are all there in black and white for anyone to read for themselves.

In fact, I'm going to go to bed. If this is all a dream, I want at least a good five or six hours of it before I wake up.

[Update after waking: 19? 19???? What happened overnight? God *damn* it, I knew it was all a dream. I'm ready for it to be more boring now, okay?]

Sunday, June 27, 2004

How not to piss off Canadians

I often complain that Americans don't take enough of an interest in what happens north of the 49th parallel, but this time it seems that my laments have turned around to bite me in the ass. This week, with unmistakably American voices, filmmaker Michael Moore, sex column writer Dan Savage, and current Presidential candiate Ralph Nader have all called upon Canadians not to vote Conservative in tomorrow's election. The response hasn't been what any of them had hoped for; Canadian journalists have been openly hostile toward all three of them, and various Canadian bloggers have speculated about just how many Conservative votes these three Liberal endorsements have been worth. So as an open letter to Mike, Dan, and Ralph, here are three basic reasons why those comments were a bad idea:

First of all, Canadians don't like Americans telling them what to do. Really, even if they think you're pretty cool for a Yank -- and they do -- they'll just get ornery about it. They tend to find it arrogant, and I think if you stop and think about it a little bit, you'll even see where they're coming from on that score. Trying to flatter them by telling them that the American left needs Canada as a beacon of hope and an orientation device isn't going to help, either. Canadians don't care about what the American left needs. If they think about you guys at all, they mostly just feel sorry for you.

Second, when you tell Canadians not to "vote for Stephen Harper," you just sound silly. This federal election isn't a battle over who's going to become the next President of Canada. Most Canadians couldn't vote for Stephen Harper even if they wanted to, because he's only running in one tiny little piece of one city in the West of the country. Remember a little concept called "parliamentary democracy" from that political science class you took back in college? That.

Third, let me explain why, since this is a parliamentary democracy, Stephen Harper becoming Prime Minister of Canada isn't equal to a disaster of previously unseen proportions for Canadian liberalism, of either the small-l or large-L varieties. The polls indicate that whichever party wins the next election is going to be forming a minority government. If the NDP doesn't gain enough seats to form a stable coalition, then there are no realistic coalition partners for either the Liberals or the Conservatives. In Canada, a minority government with no coalition would last a year, maybe two on the outside, and then the opposition party gets to saddle them with incompetence and come riding in to save the day with a majority in the subsequent election. Would you *really* rather see that happen to the Liberals than the Conservatives? I didn't think so.

Mike, go ahead and keep hacking away at the leader of your own country. Ralph, you should keep up your efforts to promote a multiparty system in your native land. And Dan, stick with turning U.S. Senator Rick Santorum's name into a term of art for practitioners of anal sex. But leave the Canadian voting public alone if you guys want to keep your cool points north of the border, okay?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A proportional response

In this Canadian federal election campaign, a lot of words have been exchanged on the subject of proportional representation. This is just as Jack Layton would have it, as a national referendum on just this topic is a major plank -- if not THE major plank -- of the NDP platform. Those in favour of proportional representation say that the current "first-past-the-post" system (where the candidate who comes in first simply takes the seat and all of the other votes don't count, and the party which wins of the highest number of seats forms the government) is undemocratic, and we need to usher in a system where the number of seats better reflects the relative percentages each party has taken in the general election. Opponents of proportional representation say that it isn't a system that's at all suited to a country with such local and regional loyalties as Canada, and that it's extremely valuable for each Member of Parliament to be responsible for a small and clearly defined area such as a riding. Leaving aside the fact that the parties on both sides of this argument seem more interested in having the system in place that's best for their party than the one that's best for Canada, there's a lot of merit to each of these perspectives.

What I don't get, though, is why no one on the pro side is bothering to mention in any of these discussions that it's possible to have your cake and eat it too. I present to you the German system. On a German ballot, voters get not one, but two votes. In the first vote, or "district vote," you vote for the person who you think can best represent your district in parliament. In the second vote, or "party vote," you vote for the party whose policies are most closely aligned with your preferences. Approximately half of the seats in parliament are filled by the district vote, and half are filled by the party vote. The party vote seats are then filled by regional lists of candidates chosen by the parties. In order to prevent huge numbers of small, unserious parties from gaining too much power, though, each party must "surpass the 5% hurdle," or gain at least 5% of the vote, in order to assume seats. (An exception is made for parties that field winning candidates in at least three districts but which still take less than 5% nationally. This nod to regionally important parties is particularly important in a country that was, until very recently, two countries, and this practice would seem to have obvious applications to Canada.) The result is a system that both allows for local districts to be represented by individual MPs, *and* gives each party proportional representation in parliament.

I can think of three potential drawbacks to applying the German system to Canada. The first of these is that minority governments are commonplace under such a system. Now, as someone who first grew her political roots in Germany, where coalition governments are seen as the norm and majority governments are seen as giving a scary amount of power to a single party, I don't at all view this as a bad thing. But I realize that in Canada minority governments are widely viewed as unstable, so I thought I'd mention it. Second, in practice the two-vote system allows voters to split their votes strategically among existing or potential coalition partners instead of voting for the single party they most favour. Again, not something I think of as a disadvantage, but many Canadians might well see it that way. Third -- and this is the most logistically difficult issue -- there are a lot more MPs under such a system (the German parliament has 598 seats). In theory this shouldn't be that big a deal, but in practice it would take a lot of getting used to. Office space on Parliament Hill would be at a premium. They'd have to redesign the House of Commons in order to fit everyone in. Et cetera.

Other than those relatively minor considerations, I can't think of a single problem with applying the German system to Canada. I've lived under it, and it works. In fact, it works so well that when New Zealand recently decided to switch from a first-past-the-post system to a proportional system, they decided to adopt it pretty much whole-cloth. For Canada, too, it would seem to be an ideal compromise.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Personal preferences

Everybody's talking about the federal election these days -- at work today, I had three separate conversations with decidedly apolitical colleagues about the various likely outcomes on June 28th. If you want to know about how likely one outcome is over another, well, you'll have to check out the latest numbers yourself. As for me, in lieu of astute political analysis I'm bringing you the only four possible outcomes in descending order of my personal preference:

1. Liberal minority government: This is what everybody on the left has been salivating over ever since the news of the sponsorship scandal broke. From die-hard leftists who just want a greater role for the NDP (as the partner in a presumed coalition) to small-l liberals who essentially like what we've got but want to shake up the status quo a little, we'd all be thrilled with this. Now, making it happen given the latest blows to the Liberals, well, that's another story.

2. Conservative minority government: Yeah, you're reading that right; I'd prefer a Conservative minority to a Liberal majority. Think about it: they have no coalition partners, so they'd have to work with three (or maybe four) parties who hate everything they stand for, on an issue-by-issue basis. It would stumble, it would fall. It would last a year, maybe two on the outside. It would accomplish nothing but being a fascinating spectator sport. So all of you Canadian lefties who are quaking in your boots at the thought of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, you can relax. The biggest drawback of this outcome is the way the American left would laugh at us for moving to the right just as they're (*fingers crossed*) moving to the left.

3. Liberal majority government: The status quo. The cons: more of the same complacency, more of the same arrogance. The pros: well, with a few notable exceptions, their policies don't *entirely* suck. I mean, they've run the country for eleven years, and we haven't fallen apart at the seams. This would be the most boring outcome, but by no means the worst one.

4. Conservative majority government: Remember how I said you could relax about the thought of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister? That's unless this happens. This ... well, this you may feel free to fear. I certainly do.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Very abbreviated English debate roundup

In brief: Harper was, like it or not, the clear winner, ending up looking like the only guy in the room with any sense of maturity. Martin was the worst speaker of the four, but he didn't completely fall on his face, so there's still a race going on out there. Layton spoke well, but used the completely opposite strategy from the one I'd hoped and expected he would use: he spent most of his time attacking Martin, despite the fact that in his ideal outcome his party will be forming a coalition with Martin's. Which meant that I spent much of the time he was talking banging my head against whatever flat surface was nearest to me at the time. And finally, for Duceppe the English debate was a formality, as none of the people who are going to vote for his party were actually watching, so he got to sort of kick back and engage in his favourite sport of Martin-bashing. It was really kind of fun to watch him be so relaxed. I apologize to all of the Genuine Canadians out there who may find the very existence of the Bloc to be offensive, but I rather like Duceppe.

So, nobody crashed and burned, nobody said they were going to fuck taxes (unlike in the French debate!), and the electorate is still undecided. For people who want something more substantive and lengthy, Andrew Coyne's temperature-taking of the various punditry.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

He's back!

Oh, my. I want some of whatever Ed Broadbent's campaign team is on.