Thursday, April 21, 2011

If you want progressive, democratic government, vote Liberal!

The opinion polls have recently shown a significant uptick in NDP support. This would be great news, if it were taking the vote away from Stephen Harper. However, it is actually horrible news, because the support the NDP is gaining is coming in large part at the Liberals expense: witness that the Liberals are going down in any poll in which the NDP is going up. If this worrying trend continues, vote splitting would most likely increase the Conservative seat total at the end of this election (I am aware the EKOS poll predicts the opposite of this. But this poll also claims the NDP will gain 13 seats in Quebec. Call me cynical, but I find that very hard to believe. Everything is possible though). This vote splitting could be the factor that tips us into the abyss known as Conservative majority government.

We cannot afford a majority Conservative government. A majority Conservative government will face none of the fetters they have faced in minority government. Freed at last, they will ride roughshod over Canadian democracy. If you thought they were in contempt of Parliament now, think again. This will be nothing compared to when the Conservatives know they will never need to face the House finding them in contempt. Indeed, if a Conservative majority is elected, expect more untendered contracts, prisons to combat a rise in "unreported" crime, and refusal to hand over important documents that Parliament has the right to examine. In other words, a Conservative majority in Ottawa equals less democracy in Ottawa than even now.

Furthermore, if the Conservatives obtain a majority thanks to the NDP's vote splitting, they will continue their ill-advised policies that will negatively effect Canada. For instance, they will increase tax cuts to corporations instead of helping the poor and lower middle classes, contributing to the continual rise in income inequality in this country. They will continue to avoid getting tough on greenhouse gas emissions and the environment. They will continue their policy of building prisons that the facts say should not be needed (since the crime rates are going down). They will not address the rise in tuition costs to students. They will not offer publicly funded childcare. The list goes on and on.

The only surefire option to stop this is to give most of the seats to a party other than the Conservatives. This cannot be the Greens or the Bloc. The choice must be between the NDP or the Liberals. Apart from the EKOS poll, the polls still put the Liberals ahead of the NDP. Therefore, the sensible option would be for NDPers to vote Liberal, rather than vote NDP. After all, Layton himself said only this week that the Liberal and NDP platforms are pretty similar. There should be no ideological problem preventing NDP supporters from casting a ballot for the Liberals. Voting for a cancellation of wasteful tax cuts, for cap and trade, for a learning passport, for assistance to seniors and for childcare are all right up the NDP alley.

Therefore, if an NDP supporter wants to definitely stop Harper, and elect a democratic, progressive government, they need look no further than the Liberals. A vote for the NDP is a vote wasted, unless of course the Liberals have no chance at all in a particular riding.

The Liberals are still the second place party. They are the best chance to kick Harper out. The NDP should want to kick Harper out. Their best chance to do so must therefore be to vote Liberal.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

We're Not Gonna Take It!

Last night Ignatieff urged Canadians to RISE UP!, referencing Bruce Springteen. I suggest the next song should be WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT! by Twisted Sister. On May 2nd, let's show we won't take anti-democratic government anymore!

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Conservatives are prudent fiscal managers?

Conservatives are great managers of money. Huge deficits aside, and wasting money on jets and prisons, they really know what they're doing. Truly. I would never, ever think otherwise. That's why it's such a surprise to find out that when they spent $50 million ostensibly on a G8 legacy fund, it actually was spent on building sidewalks 100 kilometres away. And what is even more shocking is that they built a $26 million command centre, despite knowing it would never be used.

I mean, it's not as if this is part of a pattern. Cutting taxes for rich corporations at a time when we are running a deficit cannot be anything but responsible. Or spending money on an untendered bid for fighter jets. Or wasting millions on a fake lake on the banks of the great lakes.

As our Conservative friends will tells us, these are just a few, "isolated" events. In fact, some even tell me that 1.1 million spent on sidewalk and tree upgrades 100 kilometres away is a legitimate spending item for a summit of world leaders.

I for one believe them. I mean, wasn't this the government that was elected due to its accountability.

And for any of you that doubt Conservatives have left a great legacy to our country
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stop Stephen the Creeper!

After all of yesterday's controversy surrounding the expulsion of two students at a Conservative rally, the Liberals are seeking to capitalize on this opportunity to show Canadians the type of anti-democratic organization Stephen Harper leads. They have done so through an original funny ad showing Stephen Harper creeping people on Facebook. Looks to me like a great way to connect with that elusive group of voters, the young. They will understand best what is going on in this video after all. Anyway, here it is...

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Harper Wants to Weaken Democracy...Again

Yesterday, Stephen Harper brought a campaign issue that literally no one else was thinking about. He informed the public that a Harper majority government would remove the per0vote subsidy that political parties receive. He tried to look moderate in doing so, suggesting that the subsidy would be phased out over three years. And while this is better than his now infamous plans in 2008, it is still an attack on democracy. Why? Because this subsidy helps to eliminate the influence of rich donors in politics. And guess who would benefit from rich individuals' donations being a greater share of the whole of party funding? That's right, the Conservatives.

The per vote subsidy allocates money solely based on how many votes a party received. It does not vary based on how rich the voters are. This means that parties like the NDP, based on lower-middle class voters, benefit significantly. Their supporters are less likely to be able to donate in the same amounts as the Conservatives' supporters. So the public subsidy levels the playing field. After all, if we have some parties based partly on these economic divides, the party with the richer supporters will have more funding than those with the less well off supporters, unless some public funding is provided. This is the raison d'etre of the per vote subsidy. Clearly Harper wants to benefit from increasing the importance of the donations he receives from his rich donators as a proportion of the funds going to all parties. This will undermine democracy, giving the Conservatives an advantage over other parties.

The Harper defense of an action that serves to skew the political playing field in his favour is two-fold: he maintains that we don't need 3 public subsidies to parties and that the state shouldn't be supporting parties that taxpayers don't want to support themselves. The 3 subsidies are the per vote one, the reimbursement of 50% of electoral expenses nationally and 60% locally, and the income tax credit of up to 75% given to donators to political parties.

However, as you might have guessed, the two latter subsidies do not help to level the playing field as much as the per vote subsidy. The reimbursement benefits most the parties that have the most expenses, and thus in general those who had lots of money to begin with. Furthermore, the local reimbursement of 60% requires having received 10% of the vote in the constituency. This hurts smaller parties like the Greens.

As for the income tax credit, it clearly helps most the parties that have the richest donors and thus the largest total of donations. To benefit from an income tax credit, you have to already be receiving money. Guess which party receives the most and thus benefits the most? The Conservatives.

Due to the influence of these latter two subsidies, the Bloc received 5.91 of public finance per vote, the Greens 4.59, the Liberals 7.75, the NDP 7.87 and the Conservatives 8.11 So these latter two subsidies that Harper are inherently less than perfectly democratic. The one that is, the per vote subsidy, is the one he wants to get rid of.

Doing so would clearly benefit Stephen Harper. There is no other motive. The idea that the state should not pay for services that taxpayers don't pay for themselves would eliminate countless programs. Is Harper about to eliminate healthcare for young people who would not buy it if it were left up to them? No. Why? Because doing that would not skew the political playing field in his favour.

Here's a radical idea. How about the state be the sole provider of funding to political parties? This could be done on a bracket system. The top 5 parties in the past election would receive the same amount, the next 5 would receive another amount, and so on. That would make each voice equally loud. That would eliminate any skewing effect of money in politics. Just an idea. Rather than undermining democracy, we could be building it up.

So both these latter forms
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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Keep May out, and Bring on the One on One

There has been lots of debate about the debates these last few days. The most sensible combination of debates is to have one debate with the four parliamentary leaders, and one with Harper and Ignatieff squaring off. I am very much in favour of democracy, and it is not lightly that I say that Elizabeth May should be excluded. However, to include Elizabeth May in the debates would bring less benefit to the democratic discourse in this country than the cost of including her.

What cost is there? As many concluded from watching the 2008 debates in which May participated, 5 leaders was simply too many. All it ended up being was a 4 person gang up on Stephen Harper. And while I agreed with all of them, I think that so many people made the debate very ineffective. There was little opportunity for real debate between any of the leaders. Instead, May and the others ganged up on the outgoing Prime Minister. In fact, Elizabeth May was the one who was the most confrontational.

I like confrontation in a political debate. But I do not like confrontation masquerading as political debate. This masquerade gets aggravated by May's presence. Having 5 leaders simply makes the debate dysfunctional. The debate is virtually worthless in this format. There is little opportunity to learn anything about a party's policy amidst all the ganging up on Stephen Harper.

Now, if the debate thus becomes worthless, then that is a very big blow to democracy. I am simply not convinced that that blow is compensated by a democratic principle of free expression. We are perfectly willing to limit free expression in the debates in other cases. For instance, the Marxist-Leninists do not participate. Yet if we were striving for perfect equality of expression, they would be present, and every other small party leader. In the case of the Marxist-Leninists, we are willing to recognize that including them would render the debate worthless. A similar thing happens when May gets included.

As for the one on one debate between Harper and Ignatieff, it is important opportunity to have a presentation of the 2 alternatives for government to the Canadian people. This is all the more important if May is included in the debates. Much as Layton thinks he is running for Prime Minister, we all know he is not. He is running to increase the NDP's seat count, to position it in a position from which it might one day offer a candidate for Prime Minister.

A debate between the two front runners is necessary to allow Canadians to see their choices of government, and to escape the cacophony of the leaders' debate. In that debate, the outgoing Prime Minister is oddly at an advantage. Why? Because any gain from attacking him is shared by the opposition parties, whereas the benefits from any major blows the Prime Minister scores accrue solely to him. Also, he can curry some sympathy from some odd voters. In this way, the system actually benefits the Prime Minister and reduces effective choice between governments in waiting.

A one on one debate would vastly increase the probability of Canadians feeling they have a choice. It would make it much more obvious. It would show Canadians a viable alternative to Stephen Harper. Isn't democracy about that among other things: viable alternatives for government? Therefore, it seems that excluding May and setting up a one on one debate might actually lead to more democracy.

(I would also be favourable to a Layton, Harper, Ignatieff debate, though less so. Once you let in Layton, Duceppe will want in. After all, he has more seats than Layton)
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Harper Clearly Lies...Again

Stephen Harper brought up the coalition again today, saying that the opposition parties would move with lightning speed after an election to form a coalition if the Conservatives win a minority. When he was questioned about his clear endorsement of coalitions in the past, from his 1997 TVO interview, to a paper written with Tom Flanagan advocating "a strategic alliance of Quebec nationalists with Conservatives outside Quebec might become possible, and it might be enough to sustain a government", he maintained that he'd never tried to form government after "losing an election." Assuming losing an election means not having the most seats, this is exactly what Stephen Harper proposed in 2004 in his letter to the Governor General.

He might try to say he never actually made a concerted effort to form a government, and just reminded the Governor General that she could call on him to form a government. Unless he wants us to believe that he had taken to the habit of writing letters to the Governor General reminding them of their powers, this defense is worthless. He clearly had the intention of having a good shot of forming a government, despite having "lost" an election.

The worst lie he uttered today came when he reminded us that the "other guys" tried forming government despite having lost an election, and that "more importantly, in this election, they say they will." Someone needs to buy him hearing aids and new glasses. How could he have missed Michael Ignatieff's clear refusal of this option? Although the other parties have not ruled it out, they most certainly have not said that they WILL try to form government in a coalition.

It stands to common sense that he could not have possibly missed this. It stands to common sense that he could not legitimately believe that the other guys have said that after this election, if the Conservatives win the most seats, they will try to form government anyway. Instead, he has taken to repeating lies for the benefit of his base, and to instil some vague sentiment of fear in the Canadian electorate. Never mind that this fear is completely unfounded. As Harper himself has recognised, coalitions are legitimate forms of government under our system.

Today, Harper lied. There is no other way to put it. There is no room for such euphemisms as "he misled the people", "he didn't tell the truth", "he ommitted certain facts". If he has fallen to lying to the Canadian people to secure our support, what more reason do we need to kick him out?
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