Thursday, April 30, 2009

Harper has another go at the CBC

It's obvious to me that Harper is intent to seriously cripple the CBC at the very least, if not drive it into the ground. He recently refused to extend loans to the CBC, causing the loss of 800 jobs and major programming problems for CBC.

And now, in talks of a scheme in which to compensate broadcasters such as CTV for cable channels using their content, the Conservatives have completely ignored the CBC or its needs. They are, it is clear, interested with making sure that private media, incidentally owned by many of their greatest supporters, are protected and eventually dominate the CBC.

There is no sensible reason why the CBC should not be similarly compensated. Harper is simply having another go at the CBC in his quest to render it obsolete. Yet another reason not to support Harper.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

STV is not better than MMP. MMP is much more proportional. Citizens' Assembly Wrong.

Upon reading through the British Columbia Citizens' Association on Electoral Reform's explanations for choosing STV over MMP, I was sorely disappointed.

The BCCAEF maintained that the proportionality obtained in STV is the same as in MMP. This, however, is not the case. There is plenty of documentation of cases in which parties under STV actually won more seats than they were entitled to on a purely proportional basis.

In Ireland's 2007 election, Sein Fein won 6.9% of the vote and elected 4 TDs while the Green Party won 4.7% of the vote and elected 6 TDs. Ireland's long governing party, Fianna Fail, won 41.6% of the vote and elected 78 TDs (47.0%). This is clearly disproportional. In fact, it accomplishes something FPTP does. Giving more seats to parties with less votes.

Here is an explanation of MMP. As you can see, in MMP, as close to proper proportionality as possible is achieved. This is not the case in STV.

On the BCCAFEA website, they maintain that MMP retains problems from FPTP. However, they do not mention any of these. In contrast, it is clear that STV retains the problems from FPTP of electing people solely based on their riding. This is what allows for the disproportion that it has seen.

Is the BCCAFEA so desperate to push through their brainchild that they will distort facts, and tell us that STV is equal to MMP in terms of proportionality? If they are, that is all the more disconcerting.
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Friday, April 24, 2009

Will STV make some voters angry?

In the last referendum on the question of switching to STV in BC, 58% of voters indicated that they would prefer to vote in a STV system rather than a FPTP system. However, this statistic is very difficult to line up with poll numbers from the coalition drama at the beginning of this year.

Back then, 65% of Western Canadians were found in a Nanos poll to prefer an election were the Tories to be defeated, instead of a coalition. Now, you may ask, what is the link between STV and coalitions?

Under a proportional system such as STV, there are hardly ever clear cut majorities in the legislatures because hardly ever does one receive 50% of the vote. This consequently leads to 2 scenarios:

1. Minority government
2. Coalition government

Many Canadians view both these forms of government as unstable and thereby undesirable. The claims often take the form "with a majority, the government can pass what it wants, hence making government more stable".

These concerns were shown to be important to BC voters in the polls surrounding the possibility of a coalition at the national level, but it seems that at the provincial level, many citizens have not made the connection between STV and coalitions.

This is not to say that I do not think that coalitions are a viable form of government. They are in many cases very successful governments (take Borden's Union party).

But, what we don't want to see is voters that do not realize this aspect of STV, and are then outraged at all the coalitions being formed and the instability of government. Minority governments and coalitions are one reality that has to be grasped if proportional representation is to be achieved.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

STV: An example of electoral system abuse (bad example)

The contention brought up here only pertains to a situation in which a party would be able to present only one candidate in a two candidate riding. This of course is ridiculous. Sorry, I didn't think out my example well enough

STV has been touted as a form of proportional representation, in which less votes are lost than in the "first past the post system". It is designed to restore electors' confidence in the democratic process. However, STV can easily lend itself to quite the opposite of proportional representation.

STV allows for abuse of the electoral system due to its "Transferable" quality. The transferable quality is designed so that no vote is wasted. If the first choice of a voter does not have enough votes to be elected, that vote goes to the second choice.
This is also the case when a candidate reaches the quota for being elected. The second choices of the voters supporting that candidate determine the proportion of surplus votes that goes to each of the other candidates.

This is where the true problem with STV lies. A vote can be reused multiple times. This may seem fair. To me it doesn't, but it may. However, what is far more important, IT CAN COMPLETELY COUNTER PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION.

Say a BC Liberal has 60% of the vote in a riding of 10000. The required quota for election is 3334 (votes/seats+1)+1. This means that there are 2666 extra votes. Now suppose that the NDP received 3332 votes and the Greens the remaining 668 votes. Since the all the BC Liberal voters are vocally anti NDP, and also believe the Greens are an easier party to deal with in the Opposition, 100% of their second choices are for the Greens.

This means that all of the surplus Liberal votes transfer to the Greens bringing 668 to 3334, the quota for election. The Green candidate is elected.

Does this still seem fair to you?

Think about it. In a properly proportional system, the Liberals would have received 60% of the seats, the NDP 33% and the Greens 7%. But in this scenario with STV, the Greens get elected while the NDP is shut out.

The reason this can happen is the retention of the ridings system in STV designed so as to not entirely lose regional representation. In other words, the riding system is still used so as to make sure that regional interests are still represented. In addition, the system of ridings ensures that there is a greater degree of accountability that MPs or MLAs have to adhere to. This compromise leads to the problem I just illustrated above.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

STV: Should we apply it to the federal level?

Yet again, the Single Transferable Vote is being proposed in a referendum along with the provincial elections in BC. Single Transferable vote is a system seeking to create representation that better reflects the popular vote.

Since this question keeps recurring at the provincial level here in BC, why is it not surfacing at the federal level? STV, in its current format, is better designed for the federal level than the BC provincial level. This is the case because STV is designed to provide a voice to smaller parties, and ensure that they can compete against the usual powers. At the BC level, we only have two parties that have held seats in the Legislative Assembly. Whereas at the federal level, we have the BQ, the Conservatives, the Liberals and the NDP.

Surely STV would be even more effective at the federal level. Thoughts?
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Monday, April 20, 2009

"Jack Saves the Nation from Political Squabbling and the Unwanted Election" the NDP in a coalition with the conservatives?

A while ago, when Michael Ignatieff instructed the Liberal caucus to vote in favour of the budget, Jack Layton accused the Official Opposition of forming a coalition with the Conservatives.

Now however, it seems he has adopted a similar position to that of Michael Ignatieff. During the latest break on Parliament Hill, Jack Layton canvassed voters and supposedly came to the conclusion that there should be no talks of elections and overthrowing the government in these difficult times. This shows an element of disconnect between Layton and voters, as Layton seems to have been woefully out of touch with the voters at the time of the original accusations.

It would seem that Jack's sudden understanding of opposition and coalition is motivated by the polls. Liberals have been gaining and the NDP has remained around its baseline vote of around 15%. So, instead of opposing himself to the peoples' favourite party, Jack wants to ride their wave in a sense. As the Liberals have been successful with this strategy, why shouldn't it work for Jack?

All this is purely flip flopping by Layton to suit the political climate. Seeing that an aggressive approach has yielded no fruits, Layton now is all smiles and compromise.

This flip flopping, if you consider for a second, is one of those delightful comedic gems that turn up on Parliament Hill. Not only is Jack now entering a "coalition with the Conservatives", but he really considers himself to hold the balance of power. He used to think he was executioner in chief of the government, even though if the Liberals voted with the Conservatives, his party's vote did not matter. And now, he has followed this act up with "Jack Saves the Nation from Political Squabbling and an Election". As if he were a necessary component to compromise in the House of Commons.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Jack is seeking compromise. It's just that it reveals his misconception of his importance along with that of his party in a significant way.
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

The BC NDP: a crumbling party

It's election time here in BC, and the election signs are starting to pop up all over Vancouver. But, as you walk or drive by, one thing becomes clear. The reason all those signs look alike is because they are. There are only BC Liberal signs being put up. I have yet to see a single BC NDP sign. It's as if the party didn't even have signs to give out to their supporters. To me, this is yet another clear indication that the NDP at the provincial level in BC is crumbling. What kind of party are you if you don't even have signs. Even the STV movement has a few signs up. How embarrassing is that?

Signs may not seem like a big deal, but if you think about it, if you aren't a party member, how will you know who the candidates in your riding are apart from seeing signs in your neighbourhood? Does the NDP think that their supporters will all vote based on party allegiance? If that's the case, then they are clearly not being mindful of election strategy, for the BC Liberals are leading them by as much as 10% in many polls.

The list of the miscues keeps growing. Not only are there no signs around here, but is the NDP platform really organized so as to gather a greater crowd under the tent. That would not seem to be the case. The NDP, in a masterful move, have alienated many of the environmental movement, including the Suzuki organization. By vowing to cancel the carbon tax introduced by Gordon Campbell's government, they have made the voting decision of environmentally concerned citizens that much more difficult.

The reason for this strategy is obvious. The NDP is seeking to gain votes in rural BC and among the working classes, as those are the regions in which voters are most affected by the carbon tax. However, these areas normally go Liberal, and what with the economic downturn, the Liberals are seen by many as the more economically responsible party. It is therefore probable that these regions will go Liberal, and the polls indicate this.

While Gordon Campbell has opened the Liberal tent to environmentally conscious voters with his carbon tax, Carole James has gambled that by opposing this initiative, she will receive rural BC vote. At best this strategy may gain her a few seats, but that is more than unlikely if her party organization doesn't start putting up signs.
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Harper, the great LIBERAL strategist?

Ever since Harper entered politics, his defining characteristic as determined by the media and his supporters has been his strategical genius. Supposedly, our Prime Minister has a brilliant tactical mind that could win the world chess championships if he hadn't entered politics (okay maybe no one has claimed that... still).

However, ever since he took office, this well-built reputation has been taking a toll. From the Chuck Cadman bribing rumors to the underhanded attempt at cutting off party subsidies in his Fall economic update, Harper has been making poor tactical decisions, giving plenty of ammunition to his opponents. And now, hopefully, it has finally cost him.

The latest installment of his ineptitude has been this whole fiasco with the issue of whether or not Brian Mulroney, the most successful Conservative PM in 50 years, is a Conservative. Harper's intentions for announcing that the former PM is not a card-carrying member are obvious. With the Karlheinz Schreiber-Brian Mulroney inquiry taking place, the PM cannot, in his mind, afford to be associated with such a scandal. In other words, for Harper, the priority is to ensure that his government's image, such as it is, doesn't take a turn for the worse because of some party affiliations.

Therefore, to deal with the issue, he decided to proclaim that Mulroney was no longer a Conservative. I'm supposing that in the great strategist's mind, this move ensured no scandal could ever reach his party. How wrong he was. The strategic brilliance of this plan is equal to Obama deciding to go around the country holding rallies telling all those that voted for him "No we can't".

Sure enough, as with all of Harper's brilliant moves (Economic update anyone?), there were some unforeseen consequences to his actions. This further reveals how misplaced the label of "strategist" is. A proper strategist considers the consequences of his plans within a wide range of areas and possibilities. Harper has revealed himself to be very narrow-minded. That is the only explanation for the decisions Harper has taken.

One of the areas that Harper should have considered was the effect of a move to proclaim the false political excommunication of a revered leader with Conservative circles on his own caucus. Either he does not know his caucus, or did not think of this action possibly dividing caucus, both of which scenarios are of serious concern. Of even more serious concern is that it is highly probable that Stephen Harper is lying to the nation.

To continue, the effects of this latest Harper gaffe have been to create rifts within the caucus, such that prominent members such as MacKay are speaking up for the Prime Minister who gave his father a cabinet post. The party is clearly fighting among itself, and Harper has seemed to lose control of some of his party.

This all leads me to declare, in the final analysis, that Harper is after all a great strategist. It's just we didn't know he was helping the Liberals.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lessons in political pressure, international duties and other musings Part II (or Nuclear Weapons revisited)

So I'm sure all of you have been wondering what the second part is. Well, it's to do with the nuclear weapons discussion that has been taking place as a result of North Korea's test launching of some rockets. Japan and the US have been especially vocal, Barack Obama even envisioning a nuclear-weapon free world. To this end, he is negotiating a deal with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to reduce the amount of weapons stockpiled by each nation.

The political pressure in this case has been largely ineffective, the North Koreans launching their rockets despite the American and Japanese outcry. This is an inherent characteristic of nuclear weapons: numbers end up mattering little because a relatively small amount of the stockpiled weapons could destroy the world. So, therefore North Korea wielding even the possibility of a nuclear weapon is a significant bargaining chip. This is the case with every nation.

It is therefore refreshing to see Barack Obama, as the leader of the world's greatest nuclear power, to suggest an end to these most powerful agents of destruction. Although it is an ambitious goal, that will take many years to achieve, it is well worth the attempt. There are already too many potential causes of the destruction of the planet that we have created, namely environmental issues and diplomatic tensions, without that of nuclear weapons.

However, let's deal with a grim reality. A truly nuclear free world would be difficult to achieve for the reason that a nation could choose take advantage of the new situation and create weapons for themselves, thereby giving them a powerful weapon against the disarmed world. To deal with this, the ability to produce weapons must remain an option.

Another, not so grim reality, is that a world without nuclear weapons would mean a great shift on the international relations playing field. The US, having lost one of the components of its basis for "world-leading superpower status", would be less powerful, and unable to police the world. This could be a great improvement on the international scene, relaxing tensions created by a forceful and supervising America.

The US would be closer to par military strength in the developed nations ranks. However, they would still be very powerful, as nuclear weapons are not the only military technology they wield. They will still be powerful, just not as powerful, which is enough for what we need to fight terrorism, but not so much as to allow them to bully the world.

Let's hope that Obama can sift through all these problems to deliver on solving one of the, if not the, major problems that have faced humanity as a whole in the last 50 years.
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lessons in political pressure, international duties and other musings Part I

The law that everyone has been blogging about, the Afghan law allowing for rape within marriage in Shia Afghan communities is under review. The law is being examined by the Afghan Minister for Justice, Lawrence Cannon's counterpart has informed him. This follows up international pressure from all nations involved in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, calling for a consideration of women's rights and the infringement on them that this law poses.

This, once again, is a case of the international community working for good. As at the G20 summit meetings, the world stood up for its values and demanded that they be satisfied. However, the lesson we can draw from this disconcerting episode is that, for the time being at least, the nation of Afghanistan needs monitoring from the outside. Left to its own ways, this nation could easily fall into the Taliban's hands, or into those of an Ahmed Karzai seeking ever more desperately to maintain his seize on power. In fact, many nations if secluded from the other members of the international community, can walk astray, and it is part of our duty, as members of a collective humanity, to ensure that we do all in our power to ensure that they stand true to the principles of democracy and equality. It is one of our most fundamental duties, and when we adhere to it, as in this case with Afghanistan, it is more likely that our common goals are achieved.

(too tired to continue, will post part II tomorrow)
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Isn't the world a wonderful place?

Isn't it wonderful to see the heads of government of the 20 leading industrialized and developing economies in the world come to a consensus and act decisively. I doubt there is much that can be seriously criticized about the outcome of the G20.

They have provided 1$ trillion in stimulus, divided into money for the IMF's funds and other funds, they have also made regulations concerning hedge funds along with what in many ways I think is the most important regulation, limits on how much banks can lend relative to the amount of money they actually possess in their reserves.

It is because of the banks that we have this crisis, as is clear from the fact that the first corporations to experience troubles were the banks (Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae). It is because of their reckless lending schemes such as sub-prime mortgages that the economic crisis snowball started rolling down the mountainside.

As for the stimulus money, this is crucial, especially coming from the G20. These nations are the world's leaders on the economic stage, and in all likelihood, few of them, if any, will need to take the opportunity that the greatly enlarged funds of the IMF present. In other words, these nations, the world's economic elite, have acted to aid those in more desperate straits, those that cannot help themselves. This action is worthy of commendation, an action that augurs well for the future.

When the world community acts competently, dealing with the two major branches of the current crisis effectively, who can help but feel optimistic. The only problem is the implication of these ideas. For all of us, let's hope they work.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Stop the violent protests and my tips for demonstrating

As a result of protests surrounding the G20, a man has died, though police does not know exactly why. This simply goes to show that violent protests are not the answer.

I am not one who opposes protesting. Rather, I'm all for it and it is an important tool for communicating to those we have put in power the will of the people. But when protesting gets out of hand and develops into acts of hooliganism, something has gone wrong.

Violence is not a necessary component for successful protesting, instead acting as a deterrent to whoever is your audience. Upon seeing acts of hooliganism masquerading as protest, the person you want to receive your message will have received one, but I doubt it will be the one that you want. Can you imagine the leaders at the G-20 changing their minds about policy, or even taking into consideration the frustration worldwide with regards to the economic crisis, if this is all the protesting they get.

An interesting note here. Protesting implies an opposition to an action, idea or person. However, what is often described as protesting is, in fact, demonstrating. The connotation of the two words is quite distinct. Demonstrating simply means making an outward display of opinion so that others can observe it. Protesting, at least in my mind, contains a certain amount of violence to it.

So if you want change, I suggest you demonstrate because hooliganism has hardly ever convinced anyone, especially if they are surrounded by most of the London police.

Violent protest often shows irrationality as well. Protesters in London were chanting "No more money" as they walked around the location of the G-20 summit. Is that really a reasonable demand? Firstly, how would some of them find themselves in London, able to deliver that message, if it hadn't been for money to buy train or airplane tickets, or even the gasoline in the car that they drove there. Heck, how about the car?

Here are my tips for demonstrating. It may sound odd coming from a teenager, I know, who's only been to one demonstration (in Paris before the Second Gulf War), but I believe they would be useful nonetheless. And what's more, yes they were followed at the demonstration I've been to so I've seen them in practice.

1. Do not shout out stupid slogans such as "No more money"
2. Do not engage in acts of violence.

Simple, but effective.
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