Friday, October 27, 2006

And now, as each day passes, it becomes more apparent that I will actually be a better MP for being an Indie. Huge amounts of time are spent by party MPs each week sitting in party meetings devoid of policy debate. Countless more hours are devoted to filling chairs in committee rooms, where the outcome of almost every meeting has been pre-determined by the government. And the rest of Ottawa time is largely spent sitting in QP where Tory MPs are expected to clap, but dare not ask tough questions, if any.

- Garth Turner, October 27 blog post

I'm pretty sure that Garth Turner is now closer to my ideal of an MP (in the way he does his job moreso than in the substantial positions he takes) than any other MP of my lifetime. The knock on him is that he's a bit of an attention-seeking showoff, which he is. But not only do I not object to this, I think it's absolutely essential - if the point of accountability is going to move away from party leaders to MPs, where it belongs, then MPs need to be visible, so that voters can judge their records. Voters can sure as hell judge Garth Turner's record (though, based on the comments section of Turner's blog, they're not doing a very good job).


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Grand Master, Think Faster

With due respect (i.e. very little) to the NDP, this is downright loony. But then, what do you expect from the NDP?

(That last bit, of course, was just an excuse to link to Uncyclopedia, an excellent site of whose existence I was somehow, until very recently, unaware.)


Monday, October 23, 2006

By Popular Request

Where by "popular request", I mean "request of a single person who is no doubt unrepresentative of the population at large". In an e-mail with the subject line "I never want to hear the words "Quebec" and "nation" in the same sentence again.", Anonymotron (whose blog is an excellent read if you can spare the five minutes per month required to read the whole thing) writes the following:
Unless the sentence is "Who the fuck cares whether Quebec is a nation?" Although it would be kind of funny to watch Ignatieff try to "solve" the National Unity Thing.

(Oddly, considering the title of this email, this is actually a request for a blog post on this topic.)
Conveniently, this was on my list of five or six topics I've been meaning to blog about (another of which - we're just rife with irony here at WitPotS - was a promise not to say anything more about the Liberal leadership contest until at least the middle of November).

Actually, the subject about which I was actually planning on blogging was my growing disillusionment with Michael Ignatieff, for whom my feelings, as regular readers (those ever-decreasing hordes) will know, were pretty mixed to begin with. The problem is that he seems dedicated to taking everything that was on the positive side of the mixed feelings and couter-act it, not only with a negative, but with a directly contradictory negative.

For example, one thing I liked about Ignatieff is that his mind appeared to be a really great one. The he comes out and starts blithering like an idiot about Qana. I'm no expert on Qana, the Middle East, or what constitutes a war crime, but his statement that it was Hezbollah, and not Israel, that he was accusing of war crimes, coupled with his statement that he respected Susan Kadis' decision to resign from his campaign team over her objections to his accusations that Israel had committed war crimes, appear to be, I don't know, completely fucking incoherent.

And then there's Iraq - I obviously didn't support the invasion of Iraq. I knew Michael Ignatieff did. I'd read his rationale, and I didn't agree with it, but I admired his guts. Basically, he was willing to deviate from the viewpoints of almost all of his hitherto like-minded colleagues because he believed it was the right thing to do. He admitted that it could wind up making him look really stupid, and called it the "risk of his life". Unfortunately, what *actually* wound up making him look really stupid was his statement to the Globe that Bush was a disaster largely on the basis that he invaded Iraq. Not looking quite so principled and courageous anymore.

Which brings us to the post that Anonymotron requested, though it almost doesn't merit a post by virtue of having been discussed more or less continuously for the last three decades or longer.

The problem isn't that Michael Ignatieff thinks Québec is a nation - Stéphane Dion thinks so too, and so did Pierre Trudeau. The problem is not even that he wants to entrench this in the Canadian constitution (well, actually that is a problem, but it's not the biggest one). The problem is that, like Brian Mulroney, Ignatieff won't say what effect he expects constitutional entrenchment to have. And, absent any statement of what legal effect he would like to see a two-or-more-nations clause to have, we can only conclude that it is calculated primarily to bring so-called soft nationalists over to the cause of federalism.

This brings us to the greatest problem of all: Michael Ignatieff apparently believes that it is possible to please all parties with a constitutional amendment - he believes that it's possible, the lessons of history notwithstanding, to *increase* the state of Canadian unity by opening up the constitution.

The problem, apparently, is that Michael Ignatieff is an idiot.


Her Majesty has called two of them - one in Repentigny, which will be easily won by the Bloc Québécois, and one in London North-Centre, which is where the real action is.

I was a little surprised to learn that Stephen Harper was taking a "huge risk" by calling by-elections in ridings that his party didn't win last election and had little or no chance of winning next election, but I guess that's why Paul Nesbitt-Larking is a political expert and I'm not.

The only real question in this riding is whether the Liberals will keep is (incumbent Joe Fontana resigned to go into London municipal politics) or whether Green Leader Elizabeth May will become the Party's first MP (Garth Turner won't be, because he has virtually no positions in common with the party's policy).

Last time around, Fontana captured 40.1% of the vote, with his closest opponent, Conservative John Mazzilli, receiving 29.9%. Green candidate Stuart Smith won 5.5 percent, finishing fourth (question: has there ever been an electoral position occupied so consistently by one party across the whole country as fourth place has been by the Green Party during these last two elections? I'm too lazy to check, but I'd be surprised if they finished fourth in fewer than half of the country's ridings last time around).

At first glance, it seems unlikely that May can win. On the other hand, this will be the first time since the Greens burst forward as a national party (i.e. since they started running candidates in every riding) that a Green leader will run in a riding not contested by another party's leader. Moreover, the Turner Affair has given the Greens and Elizabeth May a fair amount of publicity, and the Liberals are struggling to find a candidate. They haven't selected a leader yet (thought the publicity of their leadership race could benefit them). In short, it's hard to imagine a more favourable set of circumstances for a Green by-election victory.

My prediction? She'll still come up short, but I have trouble seeing her finish worse than second (a position which faithful readers will recall only one Green candidate occupied during the last election - Wild Rose's Sean Maw).

In any event, it should provide some interesting political theatre - I'm personally curious as to how much of an issue May's opponents will make out of the fact that she'd only be representing the region until the next election, at which time she's committed to running in Nova Scotia.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

John Ibbitson, You're on Notice


But the demands of a political party are absolute. Certainly, caucuses can accommodate large egos. (When was the last time you stood at the front of a room grinning and waving your arms while hundreds of people cheered and chanted your name?) But those egos must ultimately submit to party discipline.

Especially when in government, whether you are a junior backbencher or a senior cabinet minister, you are entitled to make your views known to the leadership. But once the caucus, the cabinet or the prime minister has decided, then you must support that decision, or leave.

Mr. Turner has a much more American conception of the role of MP. In his view, parliamentarians associate with one party or another but should pass independent judgment on each issue, voting according to their conscience or the will of their constituents.

While there is merit in that approach, it is not our Westminster approach. There's a reason why we say that parliamentary votes are whipped.
Yes? And that reason is...?

I searched the rest of the article in vain for the answer to that question. It's almost as though Roman never left.


Here are the rules

1. You may vote freely as a Conservative backbencher, even if doing so causes you to vote against government policy (except on confidence votes).
2. Criticizing any element of government policy - even criticizing what you fear might be found in government policy and publicly urging the government in a direction that it does not appear to wish to go - is grounds for suspension.

As for allegations about violating caucus confidentiality, I read his blog. If there was anything there that violated caucus confidentiality (which is a concept for which I have little to no respect in the first place), then caucus confidentiality was too strict.

Hopefully this will expose the lie that genuine Parliamentary democracy is reconcilable with partisan politics as they now exist in Canada.

(Errors in the CTV story, incidentally:
1. Rahim Jaffer isn't government House Leader. Rob Nicholson is. Jaffer's caucus char, for reasons that elude me.
2. Turner is alleged to have been disappointed to have been left out of cabinet. From reading his blog, I never got the impression that he thought there was any possibility of his inclusion, even though he was the only member of the newly-elected Conservative caucus with prior federal cabinet experience.
3. Turner is called a "small-C conservative", which is certainly debatable. I suppose in absolute terms, being a Conservative, he is a conservative, but he's also on the left flank of his caucus.)

UPDATE: Now there's speculation that Turner might join the Green Party, which would be hilarious. I confess that it was among my first thoughts as well - he's had some kind words lately for Elizabeth May, and used to work for the Sierra Legal Defense Fund - but his policies wouldn't be a good fit at all for the party, especially after its recent leftward shift.

UPDATE #2: According to Turner, the subject of caucus confidentiality did not come up in this morning's Ontario caucus meeting.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I have taken clear positions on difficult issues, and I have taken difficult positions on clear issues.

(This is funny.)

(So is this.)

For those of you who haven't been following the mid-term elections in the States, you should really start checking this daily. The story so far, as far as the Senate goes:

1. At dissolution, the standings were fifty-five Republicans, forty-four Democrats, and one independent (former Republican Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who was among the Senate's more liberal Senators and voted with Democrats on procedural questions).
2. Seats up for grabs include fifteen currently held by Republicans, sixteen currently held by Democrats, and Jeffords'.
3. Of the Republican seats, only Bill Frist of Tennessee is not seeking re-election. Of the fourteen Republicans up for re-election, only eight - Olympia Snowe of Maine, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Trent Lott of Mississippi, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Craig Thomas of Wyoming, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Ensign of Nevada, and John Kyl of Arizona - are expected to be re-elected without appreciable difficulty.
4. Of the sixteen Democratic seats, all incumbents except Minnesota's Mark Dayton and Maryland's Paul Sarbanes are seeking re-election. In addition, Joe Liberman of Connecticut is running as an independent after being defeated in the state's Democratic primary by Ned Lamont. Of the thirteen Democratic Senators running for re-election as Democrats, only New Jersey's Robert Menendez is facing a credible threat.
5. Of the five "open" seats (Tennessee, Minnesota, Maryland, Connecticut, and Vermont), Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar) and Maryland (Ben Cardin) are expected to go Democratic. Additionally, the retiring Jim Jeffords will be replaced by Bernie Saunders, also an independent, but one who is expected to vote with the Democrats on procedural issues (his voting record in the House of Representatives is actually to the left of almost all Democrats').
6. This means that there will be at least forty-eight Republicans in the Senate after the election, at least forty-two Democrats, and at least one indepentent. This leaves nine seats that have a reasonable chance of changing hands: Montana, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. None of these races is sewn up by any one candidate at this point. All of them could be won by either party, except for Connecticut which is a race between Lieberman and Lamont. Republican incumbents in danger of losing their seats are Conrad Burns of Montana (first seated 1989), George Allen of Virginia (first seated 2001), Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (first seated 1995), Jim Talent of Missouri (first seated 2002), Mike Dewine of Ohio (first seated 1995), and Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island (first seated 1999).
7. Treating Saunders as a Democrat, in order to gain control of the Senate the Democrats need to win at least eight of the nine contested seats. The X-factor is Connecticut, where even a Democratic loss could help the Democrats, if Lieberman continues to vote as a Democrat procedurally (and, all propoganda to the contrary, Lieberman would be a very peculiar fit for the Republican Party), which would reduce the number of seats that the Democrats actually need to win to seven.

Over the next few days, I will be providing some more in-depth coverage of several of these nine key races. As usual, I make no guarantee about how few days, how in-depth the coverage will be, or how many of the races will be covered.

WitPotS: Because reliability is for large, corporate-controlled media.


Monday, October 16, 2006

In summary, I'm awesome

Smart chap, the Idealist Pragmatist.

Obligatory Post Debate Commentary

That was mildly entertaining, but in no way decisive. Any Liberal who had his/her mind appreciable changed by what happened in Toronto yesterday probably wasn't paying much attention to begin with. Overall, the best performers were the four who have no chance of winning, which isn't hard now that they're released from the pressure of, you know, *really* running for the leadership. Ken Dryden was excellent. Scott Brison, though still a shithead, was excellent (but how come nobody, especially Volpe, pointed out that Brison was a former opponent of gay marriage?). Martha Hall Findlay was pretty good. Joe Volpe was as good as he could have been given that he is absolutely without credibility at this point - I mean, he almost made me feel like a big meanie for kicking him around so much.

As for the front-runners, maybe it's just my continued inability to understand why anybody supports him, but I thought Gerard Kennedy performed the worst. The challenge he faced was to demonstrate that he wasn't some vacuous twit who loves sound bytes so much that he wants to have sex with them right there on stage, and I don't think he did it. His closing statement was reasonably good but he was the most invisible of the front-runners in the debate portions. The one place he did shine was in the "debate" on same-sex marriage, though he only did so by completely misrepresenting the issue and Charter's role in it (so did Brison and Volpe).

The other three each had their strengths and weaknesses. Bob Rae got good lines in against Ignatieff (especially the oft-quoted "this from a guy who's changed his mind three times over the last week," which is sort of unfair since Ignatieff hasn't changed his mind at all). His defense against Stéphane Dion's attack against his economic record as Premier of Ontario was solid (and, uncharacteristically, I found myself siding with Bob fucking Rae over Dion on the question). On the other hand, it's still extremely difficult to tell what Rae would do as Prime Minister - he's good at criticizing other candidates' positions and defending his own record, but not much for giving anybody a compelling reason to vote for him. Likely because no such compelling reason exists.

Michael Ignatieff, as has been repeated over and over, did what he had to do - he rose above the fray and basically refrained from attacking anybody else. He seemed like one of the smartest guys on stage, which he was, and advocated his positions well. He and Dion engaged in the closest thing to a substantive policy discussion on the need for new legislation on the environment. In my opinion, Ignatieff looked like a guy who was ready to be Prime Minister, while Rae looked like a guy who was ready to be opposition leader. Gerard Kennedy looked like a guy who'd be in over his head as Ontario's education minister.

And Dion? I have mixed feelings here. He attacked well, and looked like a guy who was better-versed on the issues than anybody else (which he probably was). His attack on Rae's economic record bothered me - for a guy who wants to see fewer resources consumed, her sure seems big on economic growth - and his claim that he was around when the tough fiscal decisions had to be made is a little disingenuous, since he missed the toughest three years of deficit cutting. Besides that, his constant defense of the Chrétien-Martin years wore on me, since I'm not particularily a fan of those years, but would likely play better to the partisan crowd he was addressing. On the upside, he did a better job than either Rae or Kennedy at portraying himself as the guy who could take on Ignatieff (not that I buy into the existence of this alleged "anybody-but-Iggy" movement - I see very little reason that a supporter of Dion would be more inclined to back Rae than Ignatieff on a final ballot).

Insofar as Ignatieff is the front-runner, the failure by all other candidates to gain appreciable ground against him made Ignatieff the winner and his three closest challengers all losers. Insofar as the challenge for each of these three was to position himself as the best last-ballot opponent for Ignatieff (though I suspect there will be three left on the final ballot, barring early quitters), Dion won and Kennedy lost.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Steve and Microsoft Excel Team Up to Bring You the First Ballot Results

So, as we're all aware by now, 409 of the Liberals' 469 delegate selection meetings have reported their results. As we're also all aware, the delegates chosen by these meetings do not make up the totality of the delegates who will pick the party's next leader - there are also ex-officio delegates, as well as the delegates from the 60 delegate selection meetings yet to report. Besides that, 115 of the delegates who were selected on the weekend have yet to declare their intentions.

I've done a little bit of number-crunching to predict what the results will wind up being on the first ballot. I won't go too far into my methodology, because doing so will probably expose me to accusations of "ignoring biases inherent in the available data" or "being totally incompetent" - if anybody wants a copy of the spreadsheet, my e-mail address is in my profile and I'd be happy to send it to you.

In brief, the way I treated the uncommitted delegates was to assume that they'd break exactly the same way as the other delegates in their provinces. From there, we get the following first ballot results:

Michael Ignatieff - 30.7%
Bob Rae - 20.4%
Gerard Kennedy - 17.7%
Stéphane Dion - 17.3%
Ken Dryden - 4.8%
Joe Volpe - 4.7%
Scott Brison - 4.0%
Martha Hall Findlay - 1.0%

These results are similar, but not identical, to the ones being published as Super Weekend's "results" (the difference comes from the fact that I've allocated the uncommitted delegates by province rather than assuming that they'll break according to the national totals).

Next, I factored in the delegates from the 60 missing meetings. This was tough, because all I knew about these meetings was their provinces - I had no idea how many delegates were to be elected at each one (with a few exceptions, such as Nunavit's missing meeting which was surely for the 14 delegates allocated to the riding). I calculated the total number of delegates who were supposed to be elected this weekend as being 4865 (source: the Hill Times), and assumed that the missing 671 delegates were evenly-divided between the 60 seats (in fact, this isn't the case - besides the fact that the missing meetings are of different types, it's likely that some meetings failed to elect their full allotment of delegates - but it's the best assumption available under the circumstances). This means that each of the 60 missing meetings will elect 11.2 delegates. I then apportioned these, too, by province, to come up with a total elected delegate count:

Michael Ingatieff - 30.2%
Bob Rae - 20.8%
Gerard Kennedy - 17.7%
Stéphane Dion - 17.1%
Joe Volpe - 4.8%
Ken Dryden - 4.8%
Scott Brison - 3.7%
Martha Hall Findlay - 1.0%

Basically, this means that Ignatieff and Dion should slip slightly, Rae should gain a little, Volpe should pass Dryden (by all of 3 delegates - assuredly within this simulation's margin of error, which I estimate to be approximately a billion delegates), and Brison should do even worse than he already appears to be doing (which makes sense, since Nova Scotia's meetings have all reported). The only thing that is totally outlandish about my model's predictions here is that it gives Kennedy all 14 of Nunavit's delegates, on the basis that the only one we've yet seen is a Kennedy guy.

Of course, there are also the much ballyhooed ex-officio delegates - MPs, Senators, defeated/nominated candidates, riding association presidents, members of various Liberal boards, privy councillors, etc. According to Wikipedia, there should be about 867 such delegates, of whom 445 have gone on record as backing a specific candidate. At this point, all I did was project the intentions of these 445 across the whole 867, which gives the following results among ex-officios only:

Michael Ignatieff - 34.6%
Stéphane Dion - 18.2%
Gerard Kennedy - 15.5%
Bob Rae - 12.8%
Ken Dryden - 9.2%
Scott Brison - 7.2%
Joe Volpe - 1.6%
Martha Hall Findlay - 0.9%

It might be interesting to further divide/project the ex-officios on the basis of such things as geographic location and type of ex-officio (MP, Senator, etc.), but for the time being this is what I've got, and I saw little reason that the 445 who have declared should be seriously unrepresentative of the whole crop.

Combining the two categories (elected and ex-officio), we get the following results:

Michael Ignatieff - 30.9%
Bob Rae - 19.6%
Gerard Kennedy - 17.3%
Stéphane Dion - 17.2%
Ken Dryden - 5.4%
Joe Volpe - 4.3%
Scott Brison - 4.2%
Martha Hall Findlay - 1.0%

The ex-officios will allow Dryden to save a little face, but won't help Brison pull past anybody.

Is this an accurate prediction of what the first ballot will look like? I'm inclined to say yes, despite some factors suggesting the opposite, such as
1. the various sources of uncertainty in my model,
2. the fact that a high proportion of delegates won't actually show up to the convention, and the fact that the question of which delegates fail to show is not geographically neutral, and
3. the fact that those delegates who aren't committed one way or another on the first ballot may decide to back a perceived winner, or vote to stop Ignatieff, or what have you.

Predictions by such (cough) luminaries as Warren Kinsella and Jeffrey Simpson that Michael Ignatieff will hit 35% support on the first ballot seem unsupported by the data.

What does this mean about who will wind up winning the leadership race? I'll save those thoughts for a later post, but I'm no longer nearly as confident as I was in my Rae prediction.


Sunday, October 01, 2006


Well, Gerard Kennedy has overtaken Stéphane Dion. On the downside, this means that Dion certainly won't become the compromise candidate on later ballots. On the upside, it means that I don't need to go through the trouble of altering the amount of esteem in which I hold Liberals.


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