Canadian politics

A question for the crowd…

Today’s announcement that Peter MacKay is not going to run for his seat in Parliament this fall has me thinking that maybe this is a sign that Stephen Harper is losing control of his party finally. Some months ago when John Baird announced that he was stepping down to spend more time with his corporations, in discussion with friends we hypothesized that maybe that there would be a “leave now or you’re in for the long run” date stamped on the caucus.

Five months before the anticipated election date has got to be later than Harper would have wanted a high-profile minister to depart?

Is this a “screw you” from MacKay to the guy that defeated him for the party leadership these many years ago? Is it MacKay realizing now that his re-election in the fall would be far from a sure thing with the Liberals polling super strongly in the Atlantic provinces and high-profile screw-ups involving helicopters and ACOA appointments still in the public eye? Has he seen John Baird cashing in and figures that he’s got a “best before” date stamped on his ass?

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Canadian politics

It is on… apparently

With the new round of polls in the hopper and the NDP surge from their surprising provincial victory in Alberta quantified, if it didn’t before, it looks like the national election campaigns are firmly up and running for the three major political parties. The campaign ads are beginning to appear and the editorials are getting written. The Cons, awash with ca$h, have traditionally thrown the early punches, hitting often and hard against Ignatieff and Dion, after early swipes at Trudeau seemed heavy-handed and churlish, have decided a different approach, softer and, if anything, more condescending.

In these opening rounds, it looks like the Conservatives have been caught a bit by the upsurge of the NDP in national polls and they are still targeting Trudeau’s Liberals. Ad making takes time, and I’m sure that if the NDP lead is maintained for any length of time, even a week or three would be enough, the attack machine will roll out against Mulcair and his party.

Things are gonna get interesting.

I should tack onto the end of this little post the Globe and Mail piece on Mulcair’s success in Quebec and ponders whether the NDP can hold onto the “Orange Crush” seats won in 2011. If they can, and if they are the real regional opposition to the Conservatives in the West, October might well be a two-horse race.

Though maybe not the two horses most people would have predicted a year or so ago.

Canadian politics

“It’s real – get over it”

So says ipolitics (pay wall), referring to the NDP surge that was confirmed this week by polls released by EKOS and by other groups. They go on to demonstrate that, while NDP numbers jumped dramatically with the recent Alberta provincial election results, the upsurge really began as early as February. What this graph (shown below) also shows is the NDP vote appears to be coming at the expense of both the Liberals and the Conservatives, indicating that they are benefiting both from disapproval of the performance of the government and uncertainty (or outright distrust) of the Liberal Party.

Screen-Shot-2015-05-22-at-10.22.29-AMThere are probably a hundred reasons for this, and I’d love to hear what others think. I will highlight two. First, the NDP have been aggressively announcing their platform in very frank and clear terms – $15/day daycare, home mail delivery, changes to income splitting, amendments to the first-past-the-post electoral system, and others. The Liberal strategy, conversely, has been to keep relatively quiet about their platform for now. Their only campaign-style announcement was their plan for daycare, but even with that came questions as to whether they had botched their own accounting of the costs. If the Liberal strategy is to keep their powder dry until the campaign is in full swing, they had better get their timing right or they might find themselves out of the discussion.

The second thing I can quickly put my finger on (and again, there are I’m sure many others) is the partys’ stands on Bill C-51. The Conservatives are trying to run the standard boogeyman strategy – keep the population scared and hope that they decide to cast their ballots on security issues. They peaked in popularity with the attack on Parliament Hill last year and see this as a strong issue for them. C-51 keeps security in the discussion, which is a good campaign strategy, however they may have misplayed their hand by making it too strong, and opening up the civil liberties argument. This is a place where the Liberals and NDP have starkly different stands – the Liberals voted in favour of the bill, saying that they will amend the more odious bits of it later should they win the election, while the NDP rejected it outright and said that should they come to power in October they will scrap it root and branch. Forum polling on the bill shows that Canadians are beginning to have reservations about it and are concerned about the civil liberties issues it represents and it may be that the NDP are being seen as their champions in this case.

I will leave this post with another graph from the ipolitics article, this one showing the vote distribution as it breaks down on income level (see below). It would usually be expected that right-leaning parties would do well in the higher income brackets and the left-leaning in the lower and so the basic shape of the distribution is unsurprising – the Conservatives dominate among the most wealthy and the left-leaning NDP among the poor.

This time around, the Conservatives have to be concerned with the results, as the groups they do well in are shrinking in size as a result of the well-documented wealth gap. Add to this the fact that they will have an uphill job fighting against the perception that they are the party of the rich, as the opposition parties and the media have done a good job showing how their taxation policies have preferentially benefited the wealthy and employment results keep showing troubling trends towards instability and lower wages. Also, their one real hope appeared to be to look like the responsible economic party, carrying a balanced budget proudly into the campaign. This has gone badly. Delaying the budget because of the economic situation seemed desperate at its face, and the “balance” was immediately questioned as it was created by fuzzy economic growth models and raiding the EI fund.

The results have to be a concern to the Liberals as well, as the NDP lead in the “lower class” demographic is massive and it represents a sadly large potential voting block. If the electorate is really going to make a choice this election on “left” versus “right” issues, the traditional Liberal place in the middle, which has made them the natural governing party for many years, might be a dangerous place indeed. They may find themselves forced to one side or the other during the campaign, and that will leave them with the job of convincing the electorate of sincerity of their intentions.

If this is a high-turnout election, which it often is when the public is unhappy with the performance of the incumbent governing party, and the NDP can mobilize their base, this election might not even be close.

It’s early days yet, but these are interesting signs.Screen-Shot-2015-05-22-at-10.23.51-AM

Uncategorized

Polievre and the election wrinkle

It’s not exactly news that Stephen Harper and his merry band are willing to cut a few corners when it comes to getting democratically elected. It’s also probably not news that the party that has been found guilty on several occasions of major financial shenanigans when it comes to advertisements and campaigning has also found a way to potentially disenfranchise two voter blocks that are most likely to swing to the NDP or Liberals – natives and the young.

New rules put in place are designed to fix the “problem” of people voting with only a voter card, having been ‘vouched for’ by a neighbour or relative. Starting with the anticipated election this coming fall, all voters will have to provide identification that proves not only the name of the voter, but also their address. In the past, the voter card was considered enough to meet address requirement.

Having been a university student who traveled to another city to attend school, I know that the address requirement can be potentially difficult to prove – picture identification like passports or driver’s licenses are likely to show home addresses, not their current one. New regulations  found here require that all voters provide one piece of photo identification with the current voting address. Lacking that, the voter can opt to provide an  ID with their name and an additional piece of identification with name and address. Included in the list of valid IDs containing the address include utility bills with name and address, personal cheques with address, or income tax assessments.

Please make sure that you can meet these criteria before you head to the polls. I’d bring a few pieces of backup ID just in case something gets rejected for *any* reason.

economics

A simple question, unanswered

If the Trans Pacific Partnership is really the biggest game on the planet, why really is it okay to negotiate it in complete secrecy? Secrecy to the point that our elected representatives, who theoretically should have our best interests at heart (heh) can’t even see the thing? Why is it that the only details we can see are those that have been released via wikileaks?

Okay, there were a few questions there, but they are sequential and related. I consider them a unit.

Since we are well and truly in election campaign mode (really, when aren’t we?), why is this not the biggest single issue on everyone’s lips?  It basically affects every possible economic issue you can imagine.

At its core, the TPP is about promoting foreign investment and protecting investors. It has everything to do with competitive advantage, share price, profits, and nothing at all to do with jobs, the environment, or standards of living. It is therefore very important to anyone concerned at all with income disparity. Like her politics or not, Maud Barlow is absolutely right in describing this as a “deal for the 1%”. The information we have so far, some of which I cite below, is not hopeful. The sky might not actually be falling, but without any hard information, how are we to know?

The sky isn’t falling? Show me, prove it. Until then, here are a few little snippets teased out of the wikileak:

On the environment:

Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable. Contrast that to other chapters that subordinate the environment, natural resources and indigenous rights to commercial objectives and business interests. The corporate agenda wins both ways.

This means, fewer protections for the environment and few pesky regulations getting in the way of “commercial objectives”.

On jobs (note, this paragraph was written in an American context, but the Canadian situation is similar and may in fact be worse):

A leaked text revealed that TPP is slated to include the extreme foreign investor privileges that help corporations offshore more U.S. jobs to low-wage countries. These NAFTA-style terms provide special benefits to firms that relocate abroad and eliminate many of the usual risks that make firms think twice about moving to low-wage countries.

Under the NAFTA model, U.S. manufacturing imports have soared while growth of U.S. manufacturing exports has slowed.

Are you happy with the jobless recovery? Just wait, it’s gonna get even better!
On pharmaceuticals (note that according to this article, the Canadian government is fighting this, but we are a very small dog in this fight.):
We know from leaks of the TPP draft text that some governments are attempting to dismantle public-health safeguards enshrined in international law by extending the length of time that brand-name medicines are protected by patents to create new types of monopolistic protection. As a result, pharmaceutical companies will be able to charge unduly high prices for several more years, thereby restricting access to affordable life-saving generic medicines. This will disproportionately affect those who can least afford to pay.
Where are the political parties on this issue? It’s not that straightforward. Corporation-friendly regulatory regimes are right up Conservative Alley, but with all negotiations in secret, it is not easy to see where the Canadian government is in agreement and where it has problems. The Liberals and the NDP likewise have been wishy-washy about the deal, hoping I expect that it doesn’t become an issue that they have to debate openly. There are tough discussions to be had here, tougher for all the silence. I would love to change that.

Let’s make the parties talk!
Canadian politics, Conservatives

Pride, vanity, and puerile BS

Anyone wanna guess how much noise would be made by the Whinging Right if the Libs or NDP ever did something like this?

Are the Conservatives trying to remind the electorate of Tony Clement’s gold unilingual business cards of a few years back? Are they trying to create easy-to-use election campaign ads for their opposition?