Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Dear 2/3 of the Conservative MPs talking about this issue, and 1/3 of the pundits,

While it would be extremely exciting (although also extremely weird) if the federal Conservatives really had put forward a bill that was designed to grant "full proportional representation" to B.C. and Alberta, I'm afraid that's not what they did. And those of you who are talking about those provinces enjoying "the same level of proportional representation enjoyed by Québec," while that may be true, it's kind of a puzzlingly irrelevant thing to bring up in a discussion of Bill C-22.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


When I first moved to Edmonton in 1997, every single sitting MLA from the city was either a Liberal or a New Democrat, while every single sitting MLA from outside of Edmonton was a Tory. 'Redmonton,' they called it--an island of progressiveness in the middle of the deep blue sea. The provincial scene these days is actually a little more colourful than that--a few Liberal MLAs have seats outside of Edmonton, while the occasional Tory has actually managed to penetrate the city limits. But with eleven Liberals, four New Democrats, and only two Tories currently representing my city in the provincial legislature, it's pretty clear the overall trend hasn't changed.

The city council is, if anything, even more progressive. For years, Michael Phair was the most high-profile and the most universally beloved councillor, and he was not only a true progressive, but also one of the first openly gay politicians to be elected in Canada. Though Phair has now retired, he was replaced in the last election by Ben Henderson (husband of well-known Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman), in a very close race with yet another progressive, aboriginal activist Lewis Cardinal. The new council also contains a twenty-eight-year-old rookie whose campaign was run by young Liberals and New Democrats, and get this: only a single right-wing member.

I would imagine that some of my readers--those who don't know much more about Edmonton other than the fact that it's in Alberta--are surprised by all this. And now you're scratching your heads and adding up the numbers and thinking: Wait a minute. How the heck can it be possible for a city that elects nothing but Liberals and New Democrats at the provincial and city levels to suddenly elect a whole slew of Tories to Ottawa? Well, there are two answers to that question. The first has to do with riding boundaries, and the second has to do with vote-splitting.

There are eight federal ridings with the "Edmonton" prefix:

These eight fall into two categories: those that are actually fully within the boundaries of the city of Edmonton, and those that extend well beyond the city limits and into full-on Tory blue territory. The "rurban" ridings in the latter category are Edmonton-Leduc, Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, Edmonton-St. Albert, Edmonton-Spruce Grove, and Edmonton-Sherwood Park, and it's only here that we see the portion of the riding that's rural swallowing up the city vote to achieve Conservative vote totals that look like the rest of the province. But in the actual urban ridings of Edmonton Centre, Edmonton-Strathcona, and to a lesser extent Edmonton East, you can see the city's local progressiveness shining through in the vote totals, even if vote-splitting allowed the Conservative to come up the middle in every case.

The assumption in most of the national media seems to be that if this new bill passes, the Tories would have automatically bought themselves five additional Alberta seats. But if some of the new ridings turned out to be within the city limits of Edmonton, or if a reconfiguration turned out to push the current riding boundaries more toward the urban core (at least one of which seems inevitable without some serious gerrymandering involved), Edmonton's federal representation could finally start coming closer to the way the people of this city actually vote.

I, at least, will be watching this one very closely.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To all the gleeful poll-sifters

I strongly disagree with Green blogger Chris Tindal about the current state of the NDP, and for that matter I don't believe the new Strategic Counsel polling numbers for a second (for why, just see any other recent poll, or for that matter, Greg Staples). But I still think Chris still has some smart things to say about the Greens and the NDP toward the end of his post about those numbers.

Between bits of advice for Jack Layton, he sneaks in a statement that essentially boils down to the notion that you don't have to "secretly hope to wipe the NDP off the map completely" to be a good Green. I agree with this, as well as with the reverse: if you're a New Democrat, you can not want to vote Green because you think they're wrong about a lot of things, but still think Canada would be better off with their input in Parliament. And it's part of the tragedy of our political culture that this is a radical idea at all--that being at each other's throats is seen so much as the natural state of things that even two sides that are both proponents of electoral reform are reduced to gleeful poll-sifting and finger-pointing.

In fact, I would take Chris's statement one step further. I would go so far as to say that every time an NDP blogger gets gleeful over the Greens being down in the polls, or a Green blogger gets gleeful over the reverse, what they're really saying is: "You know that dedication to electoral reform that my party has been trumpeting? Well, for me at least, it's nothing but opportunism, and you can be damn sure I'll abandon it as soon as my party has a chance at the big brass ring." When you can't say with clarity and confidence that there's room on the Canadian political scene for a diversity of perspectives, then your commitment to a system that institutionalizes that diversity is revealed as the sham it is.