Posts from our progressive community

Lifeboat Europe. Man the Oars!

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 11:56
You've got 20 people huddled in a lifeboat designed to hold 25.  There are 60 people in the water, swimming toward you, each of them intent on getting aboard.  The wind is freshening, the sea is rising and nightfall is approaching. What do you do?

Do you do nothing and let the lifeboat be overwhelmed, casting the 20 already aboard into the water to share the fate of the others?

It's a tough choice, isn't it, but it's a dilemma now besetting Europe.  Waves of refugees are in the water, swimming for Lifeboat Europe, hoping to get over the gunwales via Macedonia. Many are fleeing the devastation in Syria. Others, trying to find safety in Europe, are migrating through North Africa, heading for refuge in Mediterranean Europe.  They're drowning by the hundreds.

Many Europeans already feel austerity's boot on their necks.  What awaits them if their countries have to absorb waves of newcomers on a scale never before even imagined?

Tough decisions await Europe and you may find some of the answers hideously brutal, to us even cruel. Wait, our turn will come.

Meaning of life!

LeDaro - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 11:12
Please fill in the blank. 

First You Stabilize Your Population. Then You Stabilize Your Economy.

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 10:39

Humanity lives in a Petri jar. The vessel is called Earth. It has a diameter of just under 8,000 miles, pole to pole; just under 25,000 miles in circumference at the equator. That's remained fairly constant over the past couple of billion years or more.

Stable as the Earth is, its human occupants are not.  After the odd near-miss where our species was almost wiped out, over the course of the Holocene, the abbreviated geological epoch that lasted around 11,000 years, we gradually grew in numbers until we hit the one billion mark around 1814, give or take.

Then we discovered cheap, abundant fossil fuel energy that could be harnessed to generate first steam power and, as coal gave way to oil, internal combustion power.  It might have taken 11,000 years to grow to the billion mark but, thanks to cheap and abundant fossil fuel, it only took one century, about a hundred years, to double that billion.  Another half century, roughly, took it to three billion. Another half century of utterly rapacious fossil fuel consumption swelled three to more than seven billion hurtling to nine and, before this century is out, possibly twelve billion. Do you get the idea this might have become a problem?

Now the seven plus billion people today don't have a lot in common with the billion folks of 1814.  They didn't have fossil energy so they didn't have stuff. They had to make do with wind energy or animals for transport.  Factories were pretty much reserved for making muskets and pistols. People didn't have big screen TVs or toasters. There were no showrooms selling the latest SUVs. All that had to await the fossil energy's greatest creation, the Industrial Revolution that, in turn, ushered in the Age of Science. And, with that, we were away to the races.

Compared to our ancestors of 200-years ago, we've grown - we're taller, often far fatter, and, thanks to science, we live about twice as long.  We eat more foods, a lot of stuff our ancestors would have found exotic transported hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to our local stores.  They raised and grew their food and that was pretty much their lot. When I lived in London, foodstuffs such as butter and lamb arrived in the holds of ships that had traveled from New Zealand and Australia. In Canada we still don't grow citrus but we sure use loads of it.

My mother told me that, in her childhood on the farm, a holiday was either a day trip to the lake or a visit to relatives. My dad's family took a trip, by car, to Chesapeake Bay and that was an odyssey in their time. My father didn't have anything we would consider travel until he boarded a troop ship in Halifax. In later years, entirely thanks to cheap and abundant fossil fuels, they toured Australia, Asia, and Europe (north, south, and west). As they grew older they wintered in Florida.

It hasn't been easy to keep this going. After all there's only so much stuff on our very finite planet. We burn fossil fuels with abandon but we're not making any fossil fuels, just consuming them. It'll take the cataclysms of hundreds of millions of years to make new fossil fuels but there's a snowball's chance in hell our species will be around to mine them once again.

Fossil fuels are ultimately a form of solar energy.  They represent the power of the sun over the span of a billion years to grow organic material that ultimately, through a variety of processes, became coal, oil and natural gas.  Hydrocarbons. And we have taken it upon ourselves to dig and pump out that residue of hundreds of millions of years of solar energy and burn it, releasing its products of combustion as greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.  What could possibly go wrong?

Then there's what fuels us. Abundant, cheap fossil fuels led to mechanized agriculture (when my dad was young they actually used a horse to draw their plough) that allowed one farmer to plant a hundred acres where once he could handle only ten or, if he was lucky, twenty.  And, as those machines of industrial agriculture improved, that farmer might be able to plant several hundred acres.

It wasn't enough. Never enough. We developed work-arounds for that too. Mechanical irrigation was introduced. Not enough. Chemicals - fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides - became de rigeur for modern farming. As we began sterilizing the soil with increasing applications of chemicals, the ground subsided beneath our feet as we drained our aquifers some of which contained water thousands of years old.  Easy come, easy go. The operative word was "ease." So long as it was easy enough, if we could, we would.

And so, today, we produce plenty of food for our seven plus billion mouths although we waste too much and distribute it inefficiently. We're assured that we'll be able to feed nine billion, no problem, even twelve billion maybe.  So long as you don't factor in climate change and the heatwaves, droughts and floods it now visits upon us or the collapse of our groundwater resources or the exhaustion of our overworked farmland, that's believable.  A believable fantasy. But, when hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of lives depend on a fantasy, it probably isn't going to end well.

Who says? Who says we're heading for an agricultural apocalypse? Who? Well, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says - and they're not alone.  The UN FAO released a widely overlooked report in March that warned at the rate we're degrading farmland worldwide, most of it will be exhausted within just sixty years.  This isn't some revelation that struck the UN FAO like lighting out of the blue. There's been plenty of research, both before and since, that upholds the same conclusion. This is sort of like the captain of the Titanic who took the iceberg warning and tucked it in his pocket, unread, only on a global, civilizational scale.

On a related note, let's hear it for the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  Think of it as El Nino on steroids. It has a hot tap and a cold tap. The bad news is that it oscillates very slowly, in cycles that last twenty to thirty years.  For the past 15-years the PDO or, more specifically, the powerful trade winds it has generated, have been burying heat in our oceans.

Strong tropical Pacific trade winds serve as an air conditioner for the world, scientists are concluding. They mix warm equatorial surface water into greater depths, and help bring cooler waters to the surface. But, like the window-mounted AC unit that cools your living room during summer, all the while heating the air outside, the strong winds aren’t cooling the planet. They’re just moving heat-wielding energy to where it will bother us less.

Diane Thompson of NCAR, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who led the PDO study described what happens when the switch flips.
“When winds weaken, which they inevitably will, warming will once again accelerate,” Thompson said. “The warming caused by greenhouse gases and the warming associated with this natural cycle will compound one another.”

Here's the thing. We have no control over climate phenomena such as the PDO. All we can do is understand it and try to find means of adapting to it, absorbing the blow when it comes and that could be sooner than anyone would like.
There are no "magic wand" solutions but there are policies we can implement that will make absorbing the blows that are coming survivable for as many people as possible. 
A good start is to reduce our global population.  Half of today's numbers, well under four billion would help immensely. There are only two options within our power -  a) killing off billions of people or b) arresting reproduction. I'd sooner skip the killing off billions of people option.
Bear this in mind. If we do nothing and, like lemmings, multiply to impossible numbers, nature will kill off billions of people, just not enough to make life enjoyable for the survivors.  Droughts, floods and heatwaves will do in a lot of us. War, yeah that'll take plenty more, maybe even all of us. Then there's famine from the terminal degradation of our farmland. These prospects are not trending as we might hope.
We might look into what it would mean if we trimmed current reproduction rates by, say, fifty percent or even eighty percent. Start reproducing to a level geared to sustaining a viable population.  We'll still need scores of millions of babies every year to continue our species, just not hundreds of millions of babies. Once we fix a target for an ideal global population, the rest is math.
Of course you can't get population under control without doing something remarkably dramatic to the economy. It, too, has to be stabilized. We've embraced this model of perpetual, exponential growth far too long.  Even Adam Smith when he wrote The Wealth of Nations foresaw a limit to exponential growth of about  two centuries and he had no idea of the rise of cheap, abundant fossil fuel energy and the onset of the Industrial Revolution.  After those two centuries of growth, Smith believed we would move into what would today be called a "steady state" economy.
So, what's this steady state economy. An easy way to think of it is switching from the constant pursuit of more to a focus on better.  Quality instead of quantity. Instead of having to replace your kitchen stove every five or seven years, how about one that will last fifty years and is upgradable and will offer a plentiful supply of spare parts?
Growth does exist in a steady state economy but it's growth geared not to production and consumption. It's growth in knowledge through which we find ways to make life more enjoyable and less demanding on both us and our environment.  Buy less stuff but stuff that works and lasts and does things we need and like and can grow as our knowledge base grows.  Build stuff that lets more people have the stuff they really need. That's the approach you would have to have for deep space exploration requiring multi-generational crews only applied to Spaceship Earth.
A steady state economy is a state of equilibrium that extends to population, where reproduction is regulated so that births match deaths.  It extends to resources where consumption is not allowed to exceed regeneration. That may sound Orwellian unless you reach the conclusion that we live on a finite planet that can support a finite number of us.
What would a steady state economy look like? It would be a world in important ways much smaller than what we have today. It would be a world in which humanity, our economy and our lives, existed as a subset of the environment.
We're already far bigger than our environment. When Earth Overshoot Day arrived on the 14th of this month, we had reached the point where we had exceeded the planet's resource carrying capacity by a factor of 1.6.  It would take 1.6 planet Earths to meet our resource consumption (which, remarkably, is still growing).  
We don't have 1.6 planet Earths any more than in another ten years we'll have 1.7 planet Earths. The evidence of our excess is all there. It's tangible, measurable and some of it is visible to the naked eye from space. It's manifest in spreading deforestation and desertification. Satellites measure surface subsidence from rapidly draining aquifers. We're fishing down the food chain. Oceanic dead zones and algae blooms that now beset our lakes, rivers and even our coastlines. The staggering loss of species and life over the past forty years.
How do we get back within the planet's safety limits? One answer is sustainable retreat, growing smaller, using less, choosing stuff that last longer, making do. That sounds awful, especially to those of us accustomed to a life of comfort and plenty, but what is the alternative? What awaits us with virtual certainty if we don't?
This sounds socialist and it is but what alternative is there that permits a transition from an exponential growth based economy to what of necessity is an allocation based economy?  Free market fundamentalism has brought us to this abyss and, if unchecked, it will carry us over the edge.
This is not about reverting to mud huts and scavenging for berries. It is about growing and advancing our society in a way that isn't self-extinguishing. And it's also about improving quality of life through accelerating the pursuit of knowledge and sustainable technological advancement.
What are the chances that, even at this stage, these solutions would still work? I don't know but I know they're probably slim.  Some would say they're already foreclosed. That's the wrong way of thinking about this. The healthy way to think of it is what have we got to lose? Nothing. We have nothing to lose by shedding our lethal addictions and much to gain even if those gains fall short of the goal. Failure is a possibility right up until it turns into a certainty. Until then you still have something to fight for.  That fight starts with making a choice.

Stephen Harper dancing

LeDaro - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 10:19
I don't know what is he celebrating.

On messaging tests

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 10:13
Following up on yesterday's post, I'll make clear that nobody should hold any illusions that the NDP's opponents will abandon their own efforts to pursue seats simply because the NDP holds a strong position for the moment. And on that front, Bob Hepburn floats a few trial balloons as to messages which the NDP's opponents may try to use against it.

It's certainly worth discussing and being prepared for the attacks we're most likely to see. But while Hepburn merely labels a laundry list of possible messages as "weak spots" without any critical evaluation of their effectiveness, the likelihood that somebody will try to use a particular theme is a radically different question from whether they'll succeed.

For now, let's discuss some of the factors which we should take into account in making that assessment - to be followed in a later post by an evaluation of Hepburn's mooted messages.

Precedent: There's a reason why the Cons' attacks on Lib leaders have regularly started years before the next federal election campaign. People (and particularly those not making a concerted effort to follow a subject) tend to remember negative messages while eventually forgetting the identity of the messenger - meaning that a message will likely have a far greater effect if it can draw on some pre-existing theme. In addition, precedents can also tell us something else about the actual resonance of a particular message: if a message has managed or failed to achieve its intended purpose before, that offers an important indication as to whether it's likely to succeed if tried again.

Relationship to Salient Issues: Any new attack on the NDP will have to be made in the context of the political scene as it stands now. We have plenty of polling as to what voters are concerned with at the moment - and while a party can certainly try to shift the public's attention, it will face a more difficult task if it has to first change the subject before making its pitch.

Credibility: As I note above, over a longer time frame people tend to forget the source of negative messages. But that doesn't hold true in the short term - and in distributing a message widely for the first time during a campaign, a party would take a grave risk in ignoring the likelihood that its own credibility on an issue will be challenged. (To be clear, this category can include both accuracy and plausibility - it obviously includes the question of whether a statement is factually wrong, but also whether the message is likely to be believed in light of its source.)

Likely Responses: Just as we can't assume anybody will give the NDP a free pass, nor can anybody launching a new attack pretend that the NDP's experienced campaign team won't have some replies at the ready. And one can't assess the strength of one without taking the other into account.

Spillover Effects: Finally, a line of criticism may have radically different effects on different voter pools, and may also influence views of different parties beyond the intended target. While a message is likely to raise questions within a particular group, it surely can't be labeled a success if it does anywhere near as much to crystallize the NDP's support elsewhere or to help its ultimate strategic interests.

Obviously there are plenty of other factors which can be taken into account. But I'll apply this test to Hepburn's list of supposed weaknesses to start with - and it's worth keeping it in mind as new themes are introduced throughout the campaign.

Canadian Federal election

LeDaro - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 09:41
Any predictions, folks.

Stephen Harper faces media on campaign trail

LeDaro - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 08:45
Harper is doing okay.


Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 08:11
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Laurie Penny argues that Jeremy Corbyn's remarkable run to lead the Labour Party represents an important challenge to the theory that left-wing parties should avoid talking about principles in the name of winning power - particularly since the result hasn't been much success on either front.
- Trevor Pott discusses Canada's popular backlash against an unaccountable and security state, particularly when it's deployed primarily to silence dissenting political views.

- Bruce Johnstone writes that contempt for the law is par for the course from the Harper Cons. And Bruce Livesey reports on one of the Cons' latest batch of hand-chosen economic advisers - whose qualifications consist of lying about her past to take a position with a scandal-plagued energy company with a regular history of consumer and regulatory abuses.

- Murray Mandryk points out that the Cons' angry, old base - as epitomized by Earl Cowan - figures to be a hindrance rather than a help in trying to win over swing voters. But as Bruce Campion-Smith notes, the Cons may be counting more on limiting opposition voters' access to the polls than on actually earning support.

- Finally, the Star's editorial board chastises Kathleen Wynne for her ill-advised attacks on Tom Mulcair. And Dan Darrah examines Justin Trudeau's choice to complain about the NDP's progressive policies instead of presenting any meaningful plans of his own.

Angry For Good Reason

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 06:38
Every evening at 6:30, I try to take about 10 minutes to watch NBC Nightly News, the object of my interest not American politics but the apocalyptic imagery of the West Coast wildfires. Every night seems to bring reports of new conflagrations and tragedy, and every night my anger grows, not just for the loss of valuable forests and the consequent release of all of their stored carbon, not just for the loss of hundreds of homes that have often been in families for generations, and not just for the loss of the lives of the brave people putting themselves on the front-lines in often futile attempts to contain these raging conflagrations.

No, my greatest anger is reserved for two groups, one of them being the politicians and their well-heeled enablers who facilitate either outright climate-change denial or, even more insidiously, now acknowledge it but doubt that it is caused by human activity. Hence, no need to change our reliance on fossil fuels or anything else about our earth-altering habits - it's out of our hands, goes the messaging.

The second target for my deep anger is the rest of us. Sure, as a society we may express concern, but as soon as measures are proposed that would constitute concrete action against ever-rising temperatures, outrage ensues. Consider the glee with which Conservative MP Michelle Rempel pounced on Linda McQuaig's recent assertion that much of the tarsands oil may have to be left in the ground if we are to keep the rise in global temperatures under two degrees Celsius. Rempel's Dark Lord and Master, Stephen Harper, quickly joined in the pile-on, saying such a statement shows that the NDP will “wreck our economy” and should never come to power.

But why do you think such their triumphalism is so nakedly and unapologetically on offer? It's because they know that whatever veneer of noble intent and purpose we have can be easily pierced by raising the spectre of job loss, tax increases, and disruption of our profligate lifestyles, this, of course, despite the fact that those consequences, and much worse, are coming our way as runaway climate change takes hold.

That is also why people like Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau limit their references to climate change to platitudinous generalities.

Said Mr. Mulcair recently:
At a time when world leaders are negotiating new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Mulcair said he wants to represent Canada in December when decisions are made in Paris.

“Nothing would make me more proud than to be there in December, as Prime Minister of Canada, to participate in the conference on climate change, to declare loud and clear that Canada will work with the world and not against the planet,” he said.Note the similar stance taken by Trudeau:
He would take the premiers with him to the Paris climate-change summit in December. By April 2016, he would hold a first minister’s conference to forge a consensus on emissions-reduction targets. He would commit “targeted federal funding” to help provinces reduce their emissions.Their timidity, of course, is predicated on the same boldness that galvanizes the Harperites: the knowledge that people are all for addressing climate change, as long as it doesn't impinge upon their lifestyle choices and economic statuses.

In the days of widespread church attendance, Sundays were devoted to uplifting messages, and in that regard my post falls far short. However, I will end on a positive note. One of the few things that keeps me from complete despair is the knowledge that there are those among us who are willing to put everything at risk, even their very lives, in service of their fellow humans. The above-mentioned firefighters are sterling proof of that. Now, if only the rest of us could awaken that noble potential ....

Recommend this Post

Senategate: Most Canadians Believe Stephen Harper is Lying

Montreal Simon - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 06:30

As we all know Stephen Harper has a lot of other problems to worry about. 

The economy is tanking, and so are his polls.

And as we know he has other fish to fry...

But he should also worry about his drowning credibility.

Because when it comes to the Senate scandal most Canadians think he's lying.
Read more »

Colossal Stupidity

Northern Reflections - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 03:30

The CBC has obtained a review of Canada's retirement system which was done for the Privy Council Office. The document has been heavily redacted. But its conclusions are clear:

"In 2010, Canada spent 5.0 per cent of GDP on public pensions (OAS/GIS and C/QPP), which is low compared with the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) of average of 9.4 per cent," it noted.

"The OECD projects that public expenditure on pensions in Canada will only increase to 6.3 per cent of GDP by 2050 – much lower than the 11.6 per cent of GDP projected for OECD countries on average."

The document also says Canada's public pensions "replace a relatively modest share of earnings for individuals with average earnings" compared with the OECD average of 34 countries; that is, about 45 per cent of earnings compared with the OECD's 54 per cent.

"Canada stands out as one of the countries with the smallest social security contributions and payroll taxes."
The Harperites claim that they are making up the gap with Tax Free Savings Accounts. But the review raises serious concerns about the overall efficacy of TFSA's:

The document notes that participation rates for TFSAs rise with income, with only 24 per cent of those making $20,000 annually or less contributing, compared with 60 per cent in the $150,000-plus bracket.

The review also acknowledges "it is still too early to assess their effectiveness in raising savings adequacy."
The report is another example of the Harper government ignoring its own expertise. If the information falls outside Stephen Harper's ever shrinking frame of reference, it is ignored. Benjamin Perrin reminded us this week that Mr. Harper does this to his own detriment.

John Ibbitson writes admiringly about Mr. Harper's force of will. Others might call it colossal stupidity.

Remembering Jack Layton and the New Orange Tsunami

Montreal Simon - Sun, 08/23/2015 - 02:06

It's hard to believe that it's now been four years since Jack Layton died, and the hopes of so many turned to sadness.

And yesterday evening, when I returned from the island to the ferry dock named after him, I paused for a moment before this statue in my neighbourhood.

I didn't stay long because I pass the statue almost every day. Anything I had to say I said long ago. Like thank you, or how cruel life can be.

But I did stay long enough to think that wherever that happy warrior's spirit roams, it must be singing. 

Because the orange wave he created in Quebec, is now becoming an orange tsunami. 
Read more »

The National Post blows up in its own face

Dawg's Blawg - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 17:10
Here’s the Canadaland expose of this unprofessional, clownish farce. In brief, a noted Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, submitted a piece to the NP, a satirical piece about the role of hair in the current election campaign. A couple of minor... Dr.Dawg

Changing the tune

The Regina Mom - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 16:50

Today is the anniversary of Jack Layton’s death. In 2011, I was at the Banff Centre, part of a Carolyn McDade and friends recording project with about a hundred women from different places in Canada and the USA. As I headed to breakfast that morning, one of the women from our group was in tears. When I asked what was the matter, I learned that Jack was dead.

I was shocked, went to tell another woman, and the rest is a blur. I know that we honoured him and his work with a moment of silence in the recording studio. And I remember the women from the USA asking about Jack and listening to our stories about him as well as the history of the NDP, the CCF, and the Farm and Labour parties that preceded them.

On the day of his funeral we recorded “Now You Can Go On”, one of four songs Carolyn wrote based on the words of the poem, You, Standing There Reading This: Stop, by William Stafford. It was such a fitting song for that day.

Later, my USA roommate, Ginny, and I sat in our room in Lloyd Hall, crying, as we listened to Stephen Lewis deliver Jack’s eulogy. Everyone, from both north and south of the border, was deeply moved. That deeply emotional experience made its way into our recording. The CD, Widening Embrace, is more powerful as a result.

Fish Man Harper and the Latest Con Whopper

Montreal Simon - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 16:46

Gawd. If Stephen Harper wasn't such a monster you'd almost have to feel sorry for him.

He just can't do ANYTHING right these days, and his massive propaganda machine just keeps making him look like an absolute IDIOT.

Just the other day they ran the wrong picture of a couple to promote adoption in Canada...

And now in an ad to promote BC's salmon fishery they've done it again.
Read more »

Bits and Bites: August 2015 Not Belated Edition

Anti-Racist Canada - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 15:20
It's sometimes a tough call on whether or not we should discuss certain individuals on the blog. There are those like "the Goudreau" who seem to court any sort of attention, positive (rarely) or negative (much more frequent) as if the attention validates their importance. Usually the significance that individual places upon himself is in inverse proportion to the actual significance the individual actually has.

Such is the case of Ron Banerjee who, as the head (and likely only member) of Canadian Hindu Advocacy, has been able to fool a number of conservative media types into treating him with a degree of deference that would not necessarily be afforded to him if they realized how insignificant he really is.... to say nothing of the really disgusting things he writes and says about Muslims, Sikhs, LGBTQ, women, and a host of other groups an individuals.

Case in point, last week Banerjee and other members of Rise Canada, the newest hate group that Banerjee has created, protested outside the building where Olivia Chow accepted the NDP nomination to run in Spadina—Fort York.

But to refer to "members" of Rise Canada is perhaps a bit generous of us:

Yep. Two. That's all he was able to muster.

Banerjee later posted a video of himself (or at least the dulcet sounds of his slightly slurred voice) and the other dude harassing the folks entering the building. We won't play the entire video, but this part is somewhat interesting:

Read more »


accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 14:17
Stephen Harper plays chess:
Sources say Conservative planners did factor in testimony by Wright and Harper’s former legal counsel Perrin. Once the testimony was over, they calculated, the sting would fade, and those voters who were inclined to believe Harper’s version would continue to do so. Those who never believed him would never vote for him anyway.Just one problem with his strategy:
The vast majority of Canadians do not believe Stephen Harper is telling the truth about the Mike Duffy Senate expenses scandal, a new poll has found.
Some 56 per cent of respondents do not think Harper has come clean about a controversy that is dominating news coverage in the federal election campaign, according to the Forum Research survey.Only 22 per cent said the Conservative leader has told the truth about his role in the Duffy affair, while 22 per cent don’t know.So the Cons' entire campaign plan was based on pursuing a pool of voters inclined to believe him regardless of what came out in the Duffy trial. And that pool now consists of...22 per cent of Canadians.

We can only hope the Cons were right in figuring that "(t)hose who never believed him would never vote for him anyway".

Stephen Harper's new pet

LeDaro - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 13:38
Harper used to have a cat. He has added another pet. They look happy.

On guiding influences

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 13:30
Adam Radwanski points out in his latest column that several weeks into the election campaign, it's hard to see what message might be used against Tom Mulcair and the NDP to any meaningful effect. But let's note that the factors working in the NDP's favour - and the challenges for the competing parties - are even stronger than Radwanski's column might suggest.

For example, for all the talk of a polarized electorate when it comes to policy, all indications are that Mulcair has a huge advantage over his competitors over a range of issues.

On every single one of the 15 issues polled by Abacus, Tom Mulcair's judgment is seen as at least more acceptable than that of Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau. And more voters see him as more likely to make good decisions than both of his opponents on 9 of those issues, including the budget, tax levels, ethics and the manufacturing sector. So on policy, the theme is that the NDP is stronger both in terms of core support and broad acceptability.

How about potential party growth? The NDP's voter universe and combined first/second-choice support each extend to well over half of the voting public, offering significantly more plausible target voters than any of the other parties can claim.

And the NDP's positioning at the top of the party standings leaves the Libs with no hope of using their typical strategic voting appeals to any substantial effect.

Mulcair's approval then represents just one more element of the same picture. He enjoys higher positives and lower negatives than either or any of his opponents, and there's no significant previously-established line of messaging for the Cons or Libs to draw on in trying to take him down at this point.

Of course, there was one trap set for Mulcair from the moment he won the leadership. But as I noted then, the "Angry Tom" theme was always one which could be avoided easily through plans which Mulcair was likely to pursue anyway. And he's has indeed managed to make his opponents look foolish for continuing to harp on what's at best an obsolete concept.

With all that in mind, the largest problem for the other parties is this: while the NDP enjoys a slight lead in voter support, it has even larger advantages in the other factors which tend to shift voter support during an election campaign. And while we should always allow for the unexpected (and should never take for granted the amount of work the NDP has to do to build on where it stands now), it's hard to see who can overcome those advantages before election day absent some major external events.

On twisted outcomes

accidentaldeliberations - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 12:57
At the moment, plenty of Canadians are looking forward to waking up on October 20 and finding that Stephen Harper's Conservatives have lost the election, to be replaced by a government determined by the MPs elected by voters. And we should certainly be hoping for, and working toward, that outcome.

But imagine if the electoral process worked differently, potentially rendering all of our efforts useless.

Imagine if the Conservatives could dictate that incumbents would keep their seats unless they were defeated by some amount which was never stated in advance. Stephen Harper could then retroactively set the required opposition margin of victory in just the right place to nullify any desire for change even while his candidates were defeated by competitors in a majority of seats based on raw vote totals.

What's more, imagine if the Conservatives could determine after the fact that there hadn't been a clear ballot question, so nothing would be permitted to change regardless of how the vote turned out.

I trust we can see how asinine and undemocratic that system would be when it comes to voting for a government. Which raises the question: why do the Libs insist on defending it, and indeed attacking the NDP for proposing an alternate model, when it comes to a possible future vote on sovereignty?

As others have pointed out, the real question we might face in the event of a future referendum is what it means to negotiate if a vote meets a threshold to trigger negotiations. But there's nothing to be gained (other than entirely-justified resentment) by playing silly bugger in determining what threshold will apply in bringing the federal government to the table.

It's utterly counterproductive to declare in advance that a major vote will be subject to Calvinball rules - that nobody except the people currently in office will have any say in determining what, if anything, the vote means, and that they'll be under no obligation even to hint at what standards might be decisive until after they know how they want to spin the results.

We wouldn't want Stephen Harper to be able to change election rules and standards after the fact to nullify our votes. And based on that recognition, we shouldn't pretend that model is acceptable in a referendum either.


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