Friday, January 27, 2006

On Hamas. . .

Frankly, there are a lot of people more qualified than I am to comment on this. The thing is, not many of them seem to be doing so, and I think there are a few general rules of politics that apply here:

1. Almost all groups are scarier in opposition than they are in government. There are exceptions (Hello, Adolf Hitler), but not really all that many.

2. We almost always view foreign elections as being about that country's foreign policy (the same is true elsewhere, which is why Stephen Harper's election was widely perceived in the States as being the result of a desire on Canadians' part for more cordial Canada-U.S. relations). They almost never are.

3. It is never good - for the country or, ultimately, for the world - for any one party to perpetually govern any one country. I'm not saying that it's good that Hamas was the group ready to step in when people got tired of the corrupt Fatah regime, but neither would it have been good for Fatah to govern perpetually.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cabinet Pool

Kyle has suggested that I create a cabinet pool, and, in the absence of much of anything better to do with my life, I've agreed to do so. Rules are as follows:

1. You must predict who will fill each of the below-listed positions in Stephen Harper's first cabinet.
2. You will receive four points for each accurate guess and one additional point for each individual you correctly identify as being in cabinet (for example, if you decide that Member X is going to be Industry and he winds up being Labour, you get a point).
3. You can name the same person for multiple positions, which could result in getting multiple points (for example, if you predict that Member X will be named Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister) or single points if you're partially correct (for example, if you're certain that Member X will be given either Industry or Foreign Affairs, and want to hedge your bets by predicting him for both even though you know he won't be given both).
4. In the likely event of ambiguity in the results, I will be the sole arbiter of who gets what points (I'm not entering this pool). In general, I will award points quite liberally (if, for example, a given portfolio were to be split in two, I would likely award points to anybody who predicted either of the resulting ministers).
5. Points are only awarded for senior ministers (i.e. none of this Minister of State/Secretary of State nonsense).
6. Entries should be e-mailed to me before the end of January.

The portfolios in question are as follows:

Deputy Prime Minister
Intergovernmental Affairs
Foreign Affairs
Indian Affairs
National Defence
Veterans Affairs
Natural Resources
Citizenship and Immigration
Public Works
National Revenue
Treasury Board President
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Leader of the Government in the Senate

Okay, Fine: Here's the Post You All Expect of Me

Look what's back!


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Election 2006: A Tragedy in Two Parts and 1300 Words

There are two tragedies surrounding the results of Monday’s election, and, contrary to the beliefs of thousands of New Democratic supporters who voted Liberal, Stephen Harper’s ascendancy to the Prime Ministry isn’t either one of them.

The first tragedy is in the corruption of the Conservative Party, which as recently as the 2004 election stood for something more than electoral success. Now, I’m no fan of the Conservative Party, which I continue to believe was born of deception and opportunism, but it had some things going for it. The Progressive Conservative Party, when it achieved electoral success, had what was commonly called a “big tent” strategy, but could be more accurately likened to a series of little tents encompassing anybody unhappy with the Liberal establishment. Québec nationalist? Park yourself with the P.C.s. Think taxes and social spending are stifling economic growth? The P.C.s’ll show those big government Liberal bastards. Think Ottawa ignores the Alberta? With the P.C.s, the West already is in.

Brian Mulroney was the best the old Tories ever had at this. He solidified Progressive Conservative support among all of the above-mentioned groups and more, which led him to win the largest majority in Canadian history in 1984. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t last: Québec nationalists found that Mulroney failed to lead his fellow English Canadians to accept their aspirations, and many of them went on to found the Bloc Québecois. But another, very different, group had a different set of objections entirely.

Members of this group saw a lot of the things that they hated about Liberal governments embodied in Mulroney’s nominally conservative government. They didn’t like the way that such attempts as it made to control the deficit involved raising taxes instead of just cutting excess spending. They didn’t like the way that it was unwilling to take serious action on crime by stiffening sentences and possibly re-introducing the death penalty. They didn’t like the way that it was abandoning the Judeo-Christian principles on which Canada had been founded and with which it had existed for more than a century. And, most of all, they didn’t like how the Mulroney government did politics: favouring one region over another for political purposes, engaging in rampant patronage, and continuing to see to it that politicians lived, in general, better than the people they represented. This group became the Reform Party.

The Reform Party took clear, unambiguous positions on bringing in substantial change. It made no attempt to moderate its policies to make them more palatable to the electorate. And it tapped into a sentiment, especially in Alberta, that, to the extent that it was represented in Parliament, was relegated to Mulroney’s backbenches. The Reform Party achieved electoral success unparalleled among any non-brokerage party in Canadian history. And, once in Parliament, it raised hell – or as much hell as could be raised by the third party in a majority Parliament.

Over the course of the Reform Party’s time in Parliament, its MPs began slowly to sell out: Preston Manning moved in to Stornoway, and most of them decided to accept the MP pension. The policies that distinguished it – the so-called “socially conservative” policies – began to occupy less and less prominence, as its questions in question period began to be focused almost exclusively on government waste and corruption. But even at the time that it became, for no apparent reason, the Canadian Alliance, it distinguished itself by its positions on issues more than did any other federalist party.

Stockwell Day began to undo this. His beliefs were perceived to be so much of a liability, that he had to suppress many of them. From suppressing beliefs, it’s a short step to substituting non-beliefs for them. Additionally, he had won the leadership largely on the strength of being more charismatic than Manning, and he felt he had to deliver. Instead of Preston Manning’s complex, if nasally-expressed, positions, Day acquiesced with publicity stunts combined with sound bytes. Canadians, on the whole, were unimpressed, and a partial caucus mutiny eventually led to the Harper years.

It bears repeating at this point that the Reform Party/Canadian Alliance was founded out of disgust with the failure of the Progressive Conservative Party to fulfill the aspirations of people holding certain sets of beliefs and, more generally, of Westerners. As such, what could be more logical than to merge the Canadian Alliance with the Progressive Conservative Party? This is exactly what Stephen Harper proceeded to do (in fairness, Preston Manning and Stockwell Day had long advocated exactly the same thing, but were stymied by a succession of P.C. leaders who had never sexually contracted Belinda Stronach’s adherence to principle). Stephen Harper then spent most of the 2004 election campaign adamantly denying that he held many of the beliefs on which the Reform Party had been founded – he assured Canadians that he had no intention of bringing in the death penalty or abolishing parole, of recriminalizing abortion, or of scaling back gay rights. But, at least on questions of federal structure, of public finances, and of honesty in government, he remained true to his, and the party’s roots.

In 2005-2006, most of this went out the window. Instead of the income tax cut favoured most of the economists on whose writings the party’s earlier positions were based, Harper promised a gimmicky 2% cut in the GST. Decentralization was heavily de-emphasized. He publicly mused about a Meech-esque constitutional arrangement which, the last time it was attempted, let to the creation of the Reform Party in the first place. As if to drive the point home, he recently named Mulroney’s former chief of staff as his transition manager. It is now scarcely an exaggeration to say that the difference between the Harper Conservatives and the Martin Liberals is thirteen years in power.

(The semi-irony is that it was precisely the abandonment of its earlier beliefs, most of which I found repugnant, that led me to prefer a Conservative government to a Liberal one. It’s still sad.)

It’s a truism that power corrupts, but the adage is often misunderstood: it’s not merely having too much power that has the effect, but wanting it too much when you lack it. Stephen Harper has become as much a personification of the slogan as Paul Martin.

Which leads us to the second tragedy of the 2006 election. Paul Martin’s political career is over, No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses and decided that that’s a tragedy; what is a tragedy is that he is going to go to his death believing that this was the result of a sponsorship scandal that was not of his own making. He might even buy into the opinion of some scribes (Hello, Warren Kinsella) that his real mistake was ordering the commission in the first place, and that if he’d buried it his remaining time as Prime Minister would number in the years rather than the days. In fact, he was defeated because he was corrupted, in the same way that Harper was corrupted. Canadians sensed (it wasn’t hard) that he adhered to the principle that he should be Prime Minister more than he adhered to any other, and they opted for the devil they didn’t know. If Paul Martin had been able to come into office with a clear agenda, and if he had managed to make progress on that agenda when he had a majority (or even when he had a minority – that Parliament was not nearly as unworkable as Martin made it look), I am confident that he would still by Prime Minister today.

It wasn’t the financial corruption of the Jean Chrétien Liberal Party that did Paul Martin in, it was the intellectual corruption of Paul Martin.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Results

Assuming the current results stand, here are the standings in the WitPotS 2006 Federal Election Pool

1. Dane Bullerwell, 18 points
2. Alex Abboud, 20 points
2. Chris Henderson, 20 points
4. Anand Sharma, 22 points
4. Steve Smith, 22 points
6. Sean Tisdall, 26 points
7. Guillaume Laroche, 30 points
8. Sharon Ohayon, 34 points
9. Dave Cournoyer, 48 points
9. Adam Demaniuk, 48 points
9. Don Iveson, 48 points
9. J. Ross Prusakowski, 48 points
13. Colin Robertson, 50 points
14. Mike Walesiak, 56 points
15. Neil Carey, 58 points
16. M. Mustafa Hirji, 64 points
17. Rachel Woynorowski, 82 points

If Clement loses his seat, everybody gains two points except for Sean Tisdall, who loses two points, and Alex Abboud and Dane Bullerwell, who hold steady. Placings are affected only insofar as Alex Abboud would move into sole possession of second place (with Chris Henderson moving into sole possession of third) and Sean Tisdall would move into a three-way tie with Anand Sharma and Steve Smith for fourth.

I would now like to take this opportunity to make a player by player examination of secondary predictions:

Alex Abboud

"Belinda Stronach will lose her seat, and it won't even be that close. I see a 5-10% margin for the CPC."

Unfortunately for all that is right and just, Belinda retained her seat, winning 42.6% compared to Conservative Lois Brown's 38.0%.

"Paul Martin's concession speech will be eerily reminiscent of Howard Dean's post-Iowa speech. The only difference is that Martin's speech will be drowned out by the sound of hundreds of Liberals in the room typing up their resumes."

Well, I didn't really think so, but the Plant was pretty noisy.

"Anne McLellan will go down to defeat (by about 1500 votes). . ."

3590, actually. But basically accurate.

". . . but Nicole Martel will emerge victorious tomorrow night in Edmonton-East, pending a recount."

Well, the margin's currently at 11,994 in Peter Goldring's favour, but maybe the recount Alex promised us will change that.

"In Quebec, the CPC will win 3 seats - Maxime Bernier, Josee Verner, and the dude whose Liberal opponent endorsed him (I don't remember his name)."

Well, he was off in his prediction by seven, but he was correct on all three of the ones that he did call.

"Lawrence Cannon will come in second to the Bloc candidate."

In fact, Cannon beat the Blocquiste by 2277 votes.

"Paul Martin will be trailing in the early returns, but will eventually win his riding by about 2500 votes."

He was winning from the outself, and went on to win by a margin of 9244 votes.

"The leaders of the other three parties with representation in Parliament will each achieve of a majority of votes cast in their riding."

Harper got 72.0% and Duceppe got 54.6%, but Layton only managed 48.5%.

"Svend Robinson will win two distinctions on Monday night: Member of Parliament for Vancouver-Centre, and Member of Parliament who most resembles former Ag/For Councilor Paul Reikie."

Wrong on both counts - Robinson lost to Liberal Hedy Fry by 8641 votes.

"Anand's predictions will call for about 50 NDP seats."

Ha! Sadly, no. But I had to talk him down from close to forty.

Neil Carey

"The Conservative minority will lead to either a complete abandonment of principle (by the Conservatives) in order to prevent an election, or be even shorter lived than the latest Liberal minority."

Define "lead to". . .

Adam Demaniuk

"B.C.: CON 22; NDP 8; LIB 6 (Greater Vancouver: LIB 5; NDP 3; CON 2)"

In fact: CON 17; NDP 10; LIB 9, for a score of 10.

"Alberta: CON 28"

Spot on.

"Saskatchewan: CON 12; LIB 1; NDP 1"

In fact: CON 12; LIB 2, for a score of 2.

"Manitoba: CON 7; NDP 4; LIB 3"

In fact: CON 8; NDP 3; LIB 3, for a score of 2.

"Ontario: CON 57; LIB 39; NDP 10 (Greater Toronto: LIB 31; CON 7; NDP 2)"

In fact: CON 54, LIB 40, NDP 12, for a score of 6. Quite good, really.

"Quebec: BQ 59; LIB 11; CON 5 (Greater Montreal: BQ: 14; LIB 8)"

In fact: BQ 51; LIB 14; CON 10, for a score of 16.

"Newfoundland and Labrador: LIB 4; CON 3"

Spot on again.

"P.E.I.: LIB 4"

And again.

"Nova Scotia: CON 3; LIB 5; NDP 3"

In fact: CON 3; LIB 6; NDP 2, for a score of 2.

"New Brunswick: LIB 6; CON 3; NDP 1"

Another pefect province.

"Nunavut Territory: LIB 1
Yukon Territory: LIB 1
Northwest Territories: NDP 1"

And three perfect territories.

Guillaume Laroche

"Independents: 1 (André Arthur of Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier)"


Sharon Ohayon

"Other: 1 (Andre Arthur) yeah, I know it's not happening, but just for fun."

Right on the first point, wrong on the second, directly contradictory, point.

Steve Smith

"The Liberals will keep both [the Yukon and Nunavit]. I am optimistically predicting that they'll get the Western Arctic, but even that will be close."

I was right about the seat distribution, but the NDP won the Western Arctic by 1158 votes, which is rather too much to qualify as "close" in a riding with only 16166 votes cast.

"[In the maritings] the New Democrats will keep the seats that they have."

Exactly correct.

"The Liberals will lose a few to the Conservatives (Michael Savage's, to name one), but nobody of any note will be defeated here."

Well, the general sentiment was correct, as was the prediction that nobody of any note would be defeated, but Michael Savage kept his seat.

"Final maritime tally: 16 Liberals, 13 Conservatives, 3 New Democrats"

Actually, it was 20, 9, and 3 respectively, for a score of 8.

"[Québec] isn't going to be as dramatic as people think."

Yeah, I'd sort of like that one back.

"[In Québec,] the Bloc will take 58 seats, the Liberals will hang onto 15, and the Conservatives will pick up one, with the balance going to Andre Arthur."

Actual tally: 51, 13, 10, and 1, for a score of 18.

"[In Québec] nobody of any particular note will be defeated, except Marc Garneau, who's noteworthy for reasons totally unrelated to winning elections. Oh, and Pierre Pettigrew: go back to France!"

Marc Garneau and Pierre Pettigrew were defeated, as were Liberal cabinet ministers Jacques Saada and Liza Frulla. In fairness, I'm pretty sure I didn't consider either Saada or Frulla to be particularly prominent when I made that prediction.

"The Progressive Canadians will finish second in Liberal Denis Paradis' riding, which will be won by the Bloc."

Oops. The Bloc did win it with 38.3% of the vote, but Paradis was comfortably in second with 28.0%. Grafftey finished fifth, with 4.0%.

"[The New Democrats]'ll pick up two seats in metro Toronto (Olivia Chow's and what's-her-face's) and a handful around the rest of the province as well."

Correct on all counts ("what's-her-face" is my affectionate nickname for Peggy Nash).

"Belinda Stronach will go down to defeat at the hands of the Conservatives."


"[Belinda]'ll be the most noteworthy defeat [in Ontario]."

Hmm. That title probably goes to Tony Valeri.

"[In Ontario:] 55 for the Liberals, 41 for the Conservatives, and 10 for the NDs"

Actual: 54, 40, 12, for a score of four. I'd say that that's damned good.

"Niki Ashton will win. . ."

. . . sadly, no.

". . . and Ed Schreyer (who's old enough to be Ashton's great grandfather) will lose."

Sadly, yes.

"[In Manitoba:] 7 Conservatives, 3 Liberals, 4 New Democrats."

Actuals: 8, 3, and 3 for a score of two.

"[In Saskatchewan:] Exactly the same results as last time. Goodale will no more lose than will Nystron win. Thus, 13 Conservatives and Goodale."

Well, I totally failed to anticipate Liberal Gary Merasty's win, but so did everybody else. And I called Nystrom's defeat (take that, electionprediction.org. But I still wound up with a score of two for the province.

"The Conservatives will finally get their sweep [of Alberta]."


"New Democrat gains in Ontario will be partially offset by losses [in B.C.], as incumbents Bill Siksay, Peter Julian, and Nathan Cullen are all defeated."

Yes, well, see, all of those chaps were actually re-elected. Also, the NDs picked up seats in B.C. rather than losing them. Mea culpa.

"Oh, Svend will lose too."

He will indeed.

"On the other hand, the NDs will pick up Chuck Cadman's old riding (partly on the strength of a bizarre endorsement from Cadman's widow), and the Southern Interior (where the Conservatives dropped the Mercedes smuggler)."

Right on both counts.

"The only five [B.C.] Liberals to retain their seats will be Hedy Fry, Stephen Owen, Ujjal Dosanjh, Keith Martin, and David Mulroney (in David Anderson's old riding)."

. . . and Keith Martin and Sukh Dhaliwal and Don Bell and Raymond Chan and David Emerson and Blair Wilson. Oh, and Mulroney lost. Go me.

"The Greens won't do better than third anywhere."

This came very close to being correct, but Sean Maw finished second in the environmentalist hotbed of Wild Rose. Sure, he only got 10.8% of the vote compared to Conservative Myron Thompson's 72.2%, but a second place finish is a second place finish.

"Without Kilgour, the Liberals won't even come close to retaining [Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont] - they'll come closer to capturing Edmonton-Strathcona."

The Liberals came within 12571 votes of capturing Edmonton-Strathcona (even though they placed third) and within 17382 votes of capturing Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont. Depending on how you define "close", this prediction was a pretty good one.

"With the benefit of hindsight, a lot of Conservatives will be bemoaning Stephen Harper's talk of re-opening the Constitution (diluted thought it was) on January 24."

Well, okay, I haven't actually heard anything today. But I still think that this will emerge as one of the more regrettable (to Conservatives) promises to have been made during the campaign.

Sean Tisdall

"The PC's will have the highest finish in any individual riding of any party not currently represented in parliament."

Or maybe the Greens will, with the aforementioned second place finish. And maybe the P.C.s won't place higher than fifth anywhere.

"Olivia Chow will lose Trinity Spadina."

Or maybe she'll win handily; that's also a possibility.

"The Conservatives will win 8 in Quebec, the PCs 1, and the Liberals 15."

The actual numbers, as reiterated over and over, were 10, 0, and 13. Sean does get props for being the closest at predicting the Conservatives' ten Québec seats, though.

"Harper will lose the popular vote in every region but the west. . ."


". . .and will not get a majority of the popular vote in any region but Alberta. . ."


". . .and even then Edmonton will not give him 50%+1"

Well, we can't really verify this, since of the eight ridings that include part of Edmonton, five also include some surrounding areas (and the three that *are* all in Edmonton did see relatively narrow Conservative victories, with Peter Goldring's 50.1% in Edmonton-East standing up as the only majority), but it seems unlikely given how handily the Conservative wins were in each of these five.

"The Global Decision desk will be the first to call victory if the Conservatives win annd last to call a victory if the Liberals win."

I actually have no idea. Can anybody help me out with this?

"There will be at least one Conservative campaign that will blame the PCs for confusing voters."

As of press time, I've heard nothing.

"Paul Martin will fight another election as Liberal leader."

Well, he says he won't, but his credibility isn't especially high these days, so who knows? Besides that, I believe that Trudeau once said that he wouldn't lead the Liberals into the 1980 campaign.

Mike Walesiak

"Percentage of votes in the Strathcona riding
Rahim Jaffer: 42%
Andy Hladyshevsky: 20%
Linda Duncan: 27%
Other: 11%"

The actuals:
Rahim Jaffer: 41.6%
Andy Hladyshevsky: 17.8%
Linda Duncan: 32.5%
Other: 8.1%

"Alberta will be 100% Conservative."


"Population's reaction:
Celebrating the new Conservative government by riding in the back of a 4x4 truck while doing donuts at a wedding reception for a gay couple: 37%
Whining that the press focused too much on adscam: 28%
Whining that the press did not focus on the "third option" for voters: 16%
Whining that their elected representatives do not have enough influence in a House of Commons which they are trying to pull out of: 12%
Whining that the Canadian electoral system does not adequately reflect each vote: 7%"

I took this to mean that Mike was predicting the share of the popular vote. In fact, it broke down as follows:

Conservative: 36%
Liberal: 30%
New Democrat: 17%
Bloc: 10%
Green: 5%

Stay tuned for my cabinet-picking pool. . .


Monday, January 23, 2006

My Edmonton-Strathcona Endorsitorial

The bad news is that there are no great candidates in Edmonton-Strathcona. The good news is that there are an embarrassing number of good ones. This will be my third time voting in a federal election. I have also voted in two provincial elections. This election has been, by far, the most difficult in which to decide how to cast my ballot. In my attempts to do so, I have submitted a questionnaire to all candidates (the results of which can be seen here), attended two forums, and perused the websites of all candidates who had them (which was all of them except Kevan Hunter) and of their parties. I read the Gateway's excellent coverage of the riding's options. I have also had the chance to talk face-to-face with most of the candidates about some of my foremost concerns. In short, I am as qualified a voter as likely exists in this riding.

Part of the frustration is that I feel politically homeless with the current selection of political parties. Even on a segment of issues as narrow as the question of Parliamentary and electoral reform, there are problems with all parties: the Liberal Party, the Marijuana Party, and the Progressive Canadian Party are silent on the whole question, the New Democrats and Greens advocate proportional representation, and the Conservatives, who otherwise best represent my views on democratic renewal, cling to the absurd concept of an elected Senate. The Marxist-Leninists are in the midst of a commendable multilogue on the issue, but have yet to generate any substantive policy positions. None of this is the primary problem, since I vote on the basis of local candidate, but it does help illustrate what I mean when I talk about the absence of perfect candidates.

Three of my riding's seven candidates fall short of even the "good candidate" label.

First, Dave Dowling takes no positions on any issues at all but the legalization of marijuana (with which I agree), pledging to defer to his constituents on all other questions. If this ugly and unworkable faux-populism is not itself sufficient reason to eliminate Mr. Dowling from contention, his decidedly erratic behaviour during this campaign (pledging on his own website to attend the Myer Horowitz forum and subsequently claiming that he never intended to do so, for example) is.

Rahim Jaffer was the only candidate who I failed to contact, despite numerous attempts. While refusing to make himself available to a constituent during election-time is not an automatic way to lose my vote, it's not far off. On top of this, he has not impressed in the one forum that he deigned to attend or in media coverage. In his Gateway interview, he indicated that there were areas in which his own policies differed from those of his party, he indicated neither to the Gateway interviewer nor to readers of his website what these areas might be (indeed, the "platform" section of his website is simply a link to the Conservative Party's platform). His votes on key issues to come before the last Parliament are a poor fit with my own views: he voted against gay marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana, supported the tax cuts originally found in the Liberal budget, opposed the New Democrat-initiated social spending later tacked on, and opposed tougher sentences only when he felt that they did not go far enough (though I give him credit both for opposing the New Democrat-initiated floor-crossing prohibition and for bucking his party's opposition to the New Democrat-initiated easing of restrictions on declarations of bankruptcy by individuals with student loan debt). At the Horowitz forum, his defense of his opposition to same-sex marriage was weak and relied on the premise that a majority of Edmonton-Strathcona's residents share this opposition (which is certainly questionable, and ought not to be relevant in any case). On balance, Rahim Jaffer is not worthy of my support.

It is not all together inconceivable that I would vote for a Liberal in this election, but such a Liberal would have to both acknowledge the faults of the current Liberal government and advocate a reform agenda separating him/her from his/her moribund party. Andy Hladyshevsky is not that candidate. He declines to acknowledge any problems with the current government, even though no governments in recent memory have been so bereft of innovation or leadership. As for substantive policy proposals, Hladyshevsky talks a great deal without saying much at all. For example, he is opposed to neither an elected Senate nor proportional representation, but also manages to fall somewhat short of support for each. While he seems to be honest and well-intentioned, he still manages to represent many of the worst elements of capital-L Liberalism.

This leaves Linda Duncan, Michael Fedeyko, Kevan Hunter, and Cameron Wakefield. All of them are acceptable candidates, and if I believed that any one of them had a chance of defeating Jaffer, I would vote for that candidate (I'm no fan of strategic voting, but I am willing to use it where the gulf in quality between the candidate I'm trying to stop and the one on whom I'd be relying to do the stopping is large, and/or where the gulf in quality between my real first choice and my strategic first choice is small). However, I think that Jaffer is a lock for re-election.

The choice really wasn't supposed to be this difficult. I went into this campaign expecting that, after I had collected all available evidence, I would make the decision to vote for Ms. Duncan. Unfortunately, her impressive credentials aside, she has been decidedly underwhelming throughout the campaign. In a Q&A after the Knox Metropolitan Church forum, she managed to both incorrectly describe proportional representation (her description was closer to single member STV, though it was slightly-muddled) and identify the patriation of the constitution as the accomplishment of a Liberal-New Democrat coalition government (in fact, there has never been a Liberal-ND coalition in Canadian history, and the patriation took place during a majority Liberal government). In her responses to my questionnaire, she deferred in all cases to ND policy. Where the New Democrats had no policy - as in the case of the raising of the age of consent, for example - she merely provided a breakdown of how NDP MPs in the last Parliament had voted (in this case nine in favour and seven opposed). Perhaps most damningly, Ms. Duncan effectively pledged to be little more than a mouthpiece of the NDP by promising never to vote against the party line. She also appeared to commit to not moving any private member's bills, which is a very poor way of earning my vote. That she earns my "good candidate" stamp is the result only of the fact that, in a majority of cases, the policies that she is parroting from the NDP are policies with which I agree.

Mr. Fedeyko appeals to me because he's the closest thing this race has to an independent - he's running under a party label, but his answers to my questions were demonstrably his own. He earns marks for opposing tax cuts at the present time, but loses some for giving a speech at the Knox Church forum that seemed to indicate contempt for the Canadian social safety net. Besides Dowling, he was the only candidate to outright advocate the legalization of marijuana, which earns him points, and his clear commitment to reaching the 0.7% of GDP foreign aid target (in fact, he was the only candidate to mention this target in a speech without prompting - Ms. Duncan, who I expected to be strong on the foreign aid issue, responded to questions about it by opting instead to talk about child poverty in Canada) does likewise. Unfortunately, all of the private member's bills he suggested that he'd move are money bills, and therefore require a Minister of the Crown to move them. In summary, Mr. Fedeyko said a lot of things I like and a few that I really didn't like. He appeals to my instinctive support for candidates who will finish well back, but lacked a clear, focused agenda. Again, a good candidate, but not a great one.

Kevan Hunter was a revelation to me. His comments (once all references to "fascism" and "workers" are removed) were sane and generally reasonable. Over the short-term, his policy seemed similar to the New Democrats': less business-friendly tax regimes and regulation combined with increased spending for social programs. Unsurprisingly, his message was less watered-down and evasive than the New Democrats', who have made decidedly non-progressive noises about things like regulating gas prices and protecting Ford manufacturing plants in their attempts to, you know, actually win some seats. On the other hand, I am fundamentally a person who believes in the free market, and Kevan Hunter clearly is not. And while I liked that he framed the issue of foreign aid as not only being an issue of giving more, but also one of taking less, it would be nice if his foreign affairs platform extended beyond getting Canada out of Haiti.

Cameron Wakefield is the guy I'd have voted for if I lived in Edmonton-Strathcona during the 2004 election. He's clearly principled, and his principles are generally similar to my own. He did make attempts to respond to my questionnaire by phone, but we never seemed to connect. And, contrary to New Democrat attempts to convince people to the contrary, the Green Party is definitely a left-wing party. Just because Jim Harris is a corporate consultant (and let me just say that after shaking his hand a couple of weeks ago and being satisfied after that I'd retained all of my fingers, I still don't trust the guy), and just because its candidates regularly make this stupid "we're not in favour of right-wing ideas or left-wing ideas, just ideas that make sense" argument, doesn't make a party that proposes stricter regulations on industry than those proposed by any other major party "right-wing". On the environmental issue particularly, the Greens have more moral authority than the New Democrats. They also have an identical schedule for reaching the 0.7% foreign aid target (by the way, the reason that I keep bringing this up is that I decided at the beginning of the campaign that it, environmental protection, and democratic reform were my three big issues) as does the NDP. My major quarrels with Mr. Wakefield are, first of all, that after being active in party politics for at least two elections, he still doesn't convey the level of understanding about issues as does, for example, Mr. Hladyshevsky, and second that, in his Gateway interview he identifies his top three priorities as being the three things whose importance has probably been most over-stressed this campaign. Beyond that, he too supports proportional representation, though he at least doesn't peg himself down to the specific model that the New Democrats have.

So there you have it: four good candidates, but no great ones. Where does this leave me? With a hell of a dilemma.

This is the part of the endorsitorial in which I should lay out some cleverly-conceived and carefully applied criteria to allow me to select which of the four I will vote for. Unfortunately, as I just demonstrated above, any attempt to do so does nothing but lead me in circles. Instead, accept the following:

I'll eliminate Hunter - I believe that candidates transcend parties, but I unfortunately don't know enough about Hunter's viewpoints as a candidate, and his partisan affiliation suggests to me that many of his views could be too extreme for me. Since he never responded to my questionnaire, I can discard him without feeling too much guilt, though I cannot condemn anybody for voting for him.

Most of what Mike Fedeyko has said has met with my approval, but his remarks at the Knox forum in quoting the Fraser Institute's Canadian version of the Grasshopper and the Ant (in which the hard-working ant unjustly has much of his property seized to support the lazy grasshopper) is indicative of an underlying attitude that may be unpalatable to me.

I have become increasingly disillusioned with both the NDP and Linda Duncan over the course of this campaign. As I recently commented to Sean Tisdall they're right about everything except democracy. I'm not sure that that's enough to be right about.

Where does that leave me? This election, I'll be voting for Cameron Wakefield.

I'm two words away from completing my Edmonton-Strathcona endorsitorial

I'm not sure what those two words will be, but I know that they'll complete the following sentence: "This election, I'm voting for. . ."

In the meantime, here are the picks for the WitPotS Federal Election Pool 2006:

Alex Abboud122955931001
Dane Bullerwell1201036025000
Neil Carey140816323100
Dave Cournoyer139846024001
Adam Demaniuk140815928000
Chris Henderson131964832001
M. Mustafa Hirji143716033001
Don Iveson138806030000
Guillaume Laroche134905627001
Sharon Ohayon132865930001
J. Ross Prusakowski139846025001
Colin Robertson139795832000
Anand Sharma125925931001
Steve Smith128975824001
Sean Tisdall1131155128010
Mike Walesiak149845421000
Rachel Woynorowski149636135000


Thursday, January 19, 2006

WitPotS Federal Election Pool 2006

We're going to keep this one for bragging rights only, I think, since I don't feel like administering money.

The rules are simple:
1. E-mail me how many seats you think each party will win (sarcasticidealist@gmail.com) by midnight on January 22nd (to clarify: this means the midnight separating the 22nd from the 23rd).
2. Independents, even though none will win, are counted as their own party.
3. Any parties that you don't bother to mention will be assumed to win zero seats in your prediction.
4. Your picks *must* add up to 308. There's no reason for this rule, since there is no advantage to be gained by not adding your picks up to 308, but it's still a rule.
5. I will post the predictions here before election results begin to come in.
6. Each player's score will be determined by summing the absolute values of the differences between each party's actual seats obtained and that player's predicted seats for that party.
7. The winner will be the player with the lowest score.
8. Tangential predictions - such as riding-by-riding or province-by-province predictions are welcome, but will have no bearing on the pool. They are useful for additional bragging rights, though (I speak as a guy who made is 1997 predictions riding-by-riding and turned out to be spectacularily wrong, but in a destructive interference sort of way, which allowed me to win the pool anyway).


EDIT: Speaking of games, anybody interested in playing Great Canadian Pie should e-mail me. Seriously.


Monday, January 16, 2006

I don't follow CFS politics as closely as I once did. . .

. . . but I'll hazard a guess that the organization's presence on this list is going to lead to a lot of infighting.

Of course, so will our unseasonably mild winter, the acceptance of the word "dice" as a singular as well as a plural, and rumours that Tom Cruise keeps unilaterally postponing his wedding/mind meld to Katie Holmes.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Obligatory "Man, Am I Ever Awesome" Post. Well, Perhaps Not Obligatory. But Still: Man, Am I Ever Awesome.

Antonia Zerbisias, who appears to be a Big Deal of some kind, insults both my last post *and* my musical taste! Fame!

(I was actually holding off posting again because I wanted to leave my debate transcript at the top; I was unconvinced that I'd received sufficient adulation in the comments section. But a link from a Toronto Star columnist's blog is basically the same as adulation, so I guess I can move on now.)


Monday, January 09, 2006

A Transcript of This Evening's Leaders' Debate

Steve Paikin: Good evening, everybody, and welcome to what promises to be the most degrading evening of my life: the 2006 English language federal leaders' debate. Without further ado, let's skip straight to the exhibits for their opening statements, beginning with Finance Minister Paul Martin.

Paul Martin: Prime Minister.

Paikin: Whatever.

Martin: I believe in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I believe in universal health care. I believe in the Sasquatch. In fact, my belief system exactly matches each of thirty million Canadians' belief systems, no matter how contradictory they might be. Vote Liberal.

Paikin: We now proceed to Stephen Harper, who appears to have the tail of some small reptile sticking out of his mouth.

Stephen Harper: Paul Martin doesn't believe in Ministerial responsibility, God, or Santa Claus. He fritters away millions of taxpayer dollars solely because he has a frittering fetish. It's time for a change: it's time to put an end to this thirteen year tradition of carbon-based Prime Ministers.

Harper's head pulsates briefly.

Paikin: Next up is Gilles Duceppe, who will not smile at all during this debate except when he has just completed a comment and wishes to indicate that he is incredibly uncomfortable.

Gilles Duceppe: The Liberals have insulted Quebecers by spending their tax dollars on propaganda intended to sway them to one side of the separation debate. If Quebecers are going to have their tax dollars used in such a way, it should be by the government in Québec City.

Paikin: Thank you, Mr. Duceppe. Having now dispensed with the opening statements. . .

Jack Layton: There's a third alternative in this election, Steve, standing for Canadian working families.

Paikin: Didn't you just speak?

Layton: That was Duceppe.

Paikin: I'm sorry, I must have confused the two of you, since at no point during this debate will you ever disagree with each other about anything. As I was saying, we will now get to the questions. Our first section is on accountability and ethics in government. Mr. Layton, you've demanded that Finance Minister Ralph Goodale resign on the basis of the fact that circumstantial evidence suggests that there might have been some kind of wrongdoing on the part of somebody vaguely connected with his department. My question is as follows: what the hell?

Layton: Ed Broadbent is one of our MPs. Ed Broadbent is a good man, widely trusted by Canadians. Ed Broadbent stands for Canadian working families. Are you calling Ed Broadbent a liar? Ed Broadbent doesn't like being called a liar. Ed Broadbent SMASH!

Harper: What I want to know is why Paul Martin, back when he was the CEO of a company with a fiduciary obligation to maximize shareholder profit, flew flags of convenience on his ships.

A slug crawls out of Harper's ear.

Duceppe: I want to know why Stephen Harper has never revealed who gave money to his leadership campaigns.

Harper: I totally have.

Martin: Have not.

Harper: You've seen the list, Mr. Liberian-Flag-Flyer.

Martin: I don't think competitiveness is only about attracting foreign corporations to do business in Canada, but also to get Canadian corporations to expand to other markets, especially war-ravaged western African nations with no discernible economy. That, to me, is a symbol of Canada's greatness.

Duceppe: Where's the list, Stephen?

Harper: Gilles, I released the fucking list. Years ago. I held a press conference.

Harper begins to tip over.

Paikin: That's quite enough of that. Mr. Martin, many campaigns, yours included, have made use of personal attacks this election, with one member of your team going so far as to allege that Stephen Harper killed three nuns. Are such attacks productive?

Martin: I would like to take this opportunity to completely ignore your question, and to focus instead on my favourite platitude, the importance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You see, the Charter is important. That's why if I get to keep being Prime Minister, I, as a staunch advocate of preserving the strong centre of the Canadian federation, will seek a constitutional amendment that will strip the federal government of a power that the provinces will retain. What do you think of that? Huh?

Harper: Hold on, it doesn't appear to be in my script.

Harper is now leaning at approximately forty-five degrees.

Layton: Personal attacks are totally unproductive. These bottom-feeders need to stop engaging in them, and Canadians, especially those in Canadian working families, need to realize that there's a third option.

Aides scramble over and jack Harper back to a ninety degree angle.

Paikin: Now we're going to move on to the second phase of the debate, which is on social issues. Mr. Harper, would you like to take the bait I offer you by asking you an incredibly tasteless question about whether the deaths of the mounties in Mayerthorpe and of that fifteen year old girl in Toronto were the personal fault of Paul Martin?

Harper: Mmm. . . bait. . .

He licks his lips with a forked tongue.

Martin: We need us some mandatory minimum sentences.

Paikin: Mr. Martin, hasn't your own justice minister argued strongly against mandatory minimum sentences in Parliament? Do you have any idea what the hell your government's policy is anymore?

Martin: Irwin's been talking to his provincial counterparts.

Paikin: and. . .?

Layton: New Democrats, as the third option for Canadian working families, realize that the causes of crime are complex, and that enduring poverty and lack of educational opportunities can cause a lot of people to slip through the cracks. That's why we support taking people who have slipped through those cracks, locking them up, and throwing away the key.

Paikin: Let me get this straight: there is no evidence that mandatory minimum sentences do anything to reduce crime, and they accomplish nothing but substituting the incredibly general judgment of Parliament for the specific understanding of trial judges. And none of you have a thing to say against this train-wreck of a crime-prevention idea?

Crickets chirp. Harper looks up hungrily.

Paikin: Time to sex this debate up a little bit. The Supreme Court recently ruled that swingers clubs ought to be legal, since outlawing them isn't justified by the harm principle. Mr. Harper, have you ever been in a threesome?

Harper: I reproduce asexually, requiring only sunlight and argon.

Layton: The way we see it, if Canadian working families want to engage in some girl-girl-guy action sometimes, that would be really hot.

Martin: In a grade five book report, Stephen Harper once said that there are other good countries in the world. He also held hands with a conservative American girl in grade eight.

Paikin: That has nothing to do with the question at hand.

Martin: I'll be honest: I wasn't listening.

Paikin: In that case, I'll ask a question that is so vague as to be meaningless, in the hopes that it will provoke a flurry of vehement but shallow accusations and proclamations: Mr. Duceppe, would you outlaw Private For-Profit Health Care?

Duceppe wakes up.

Duceppe: Provincial responsibility! Provincial responsibility! Fiscal imbalance!

Duceppe goes back to sleep, satisfied that he's provided the most relevant and coherent answer of any that will be offered tonight.

Paikin: We'll now move on the third phase of the debate, which focuses on the economy. Mr. Harper: Poverty - for or against?

Harper: Poverty is a terrible thing. That's why we're cutting the GST, to allow low income Canadians to save one point nine percent of the ten percent of their budget that they don't spend on GST-exempt essentials.

A ferret struggles to climb out of Harper's shirt collar, but is contained with difficulty.

Layton: What Mr. Harper doesn't tell you is that, at the same time he lowers the GST, he'll be undoing other tax cuts, that will more than cancel out his tax cut.

Paikin: Aren't you supposed to be a socialist?

Martin: We're cutting taxes too. In fact, we believe so strongly in protecting the role of the state that we're promising to forfeit more of the state's revenue than the Conservatives are!

Harper: That's not true. The Liberal tax cut is maybe four inches when fully erect.

Harper moistens his gill slits.

Paikin: I would now like all of you to pretend to care about agriculture for a few minutes.

Layton: In addition to Canadian working families, I also care about farmers. While campaigning, I met a farmer who showed me his balance sheet. Being a New Democrat, I couldn't read it, but that did nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for throwing large sums of money at the problem.

Paikin: Mr. Layton, if your party should hold the balance of power in the next Parliament, what concessions would you attempt to weasel out of the Prime Minister in exchange for support of a budget?

Layton: One thing that's very important is providing opportunities for children, giving them a chance to spread their wings.

Paikin: Given your reputation, especially on WitPotS, for being a little too fond of children, don't you think that "spread their wings" was an exceedingly poor choice of words?

Duceppe: I'll field that one: fiscal imbalance.

Paikin: Since Mr. Duceppe seems to have rejoined us, we'll move on to the fourth phase of the debate: national unity. Mr. Martin, please accuse Mr. Harper of being an enemy of Canada.

Martin: Mr. Harper says that if he owned a shipping company, he'd fly a Canadian flag. What he doesn't tell you is that he once compared Canada unfavourably to a European country. Europeans aren't Canadians, Mr. Harper.

Duceppe: But Quebecers are a nation. Say it, Martin!

Martin: Well, as it happens, I've acknowledged the nationhood of Acadians and Inuit, and I usually use the word "peuple" to describe Quebecois, but I certainly have no hesitation to apply the word that you're talking about in the context that you mean.

Duceppe: Say it!

Martin: Well, I think that it's obvious to all concerned that, by some definitions of certain words, certain groups of people could qualify as certain things. I've always been unequivocal on that point.

Paikin: One last question for Mr. Layton: since you'll never, ever become Prime Minister, which party would you rather see win the election of the Liberals and Conservatives.

Layton: We're running people in 308 ridings, against the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Paikin: Did you just completely fail to answer a direct question from me?

Layton: We support Canadian working families.

Paikin: We'll call that the beginning of our closing statements. Mr. Duceppe?

Duceppe: Fiscal imbalance! Nation!

Martin: Values! Charter! Medicare! I'm not a New Democrat, but I play one during election campaigns!

Harper bursts, releasing a swarm of bats.

Paikin: Thank you all for watching this evening; I'm Steve Paikin, and I wish I was dead.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

If Tommy Salo hears about this, heads will roll.

So it turns out that Belarus doesn't have an Olympic hockey team this year. *Now* who am I supposed to cheer for?

(Switzerland *does* have a team - "There's a team that'll use the neutral zone trap," sez Mike.)


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours? Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Listed on BlogShares