Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Boy did I dial a wrong number!

I'm still surprised by the results:

Liberal - 184
Conservatives - 99
NDP - 44
Bloc - 10
Green - 1

Much has to do with some districts where the Lib candidate who was running in third throughout the campaign, triumphed over the other two parties. That certainly was the case in my home district of Hamilton East - Stoney Creek where Bob Bratina who was written off as a yesterday's person pulled it off. GOTV, name recognition, joining the bandwagon? Who knows? Regardless, we have the youngest PM since Joe Clark in 1979.

Congratulations to all the candidates across Canada, whether you won or not. Your stated commitment to our federation is what helps make it strong.

Monday, October 19, 2015

My fearless prediction for Decision 2015

And here it is ...remember the Magic Number is 170.

Liberals 143
Conservatives 132
NDP 55
Bloc 7
Green 1

My sense is that the Cons will do well at the expense of the NDP because large parts of Quebec are still socially conservative (especially rural areas), as well the "shy Tory" phenomenon - people who are polled simply lie about their intentions until they actually get to the polling station. But it won't be enough to catch up to the Liberals. After a couple of stumbles, it looks like Justin has the wind behind his back. This election was Tom's to lose and it looks like he has.

Barring one of those crazy, unpredictable things, I think we're looking at a left wing alliance of some sort. It won't be an outright coalition, but perhaps some of the damage that has been can be undone. Thank you for your service, Stephen, but it's time to go.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Nothing partisan, I assure you. But it's obvious that unless hell freezes over we're looking at a minority situation - no one will get the magic number of 170. This is what I think will happen Monday:

Liberals - 143
Conservatives - 135
NDP - 51
Bloc - 8
Green - 1

I simply think the Cons are much better at GOTV than any of their opponents. Plus the KISS format to the disadvantage of any party that is more progressive. I don't dispute it will be anything but a happy night but the plus side is that the NDP would have much more influence in a minority situation. They have the numbers to prop up the Libs.

Will the Cons do that well? I may owe someone I know a box of donuts or the equivalent over that. :-)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to vote, how to vote ...

This will be my last post on the election until it actually happens ... barring a freak of nature. I will be working as a Deputy Returning Officer (i.e. I will supervise a poll and count the ballots at night's end); and according to Elections Canada, when I inquired, their head office told me that blogging that leans towards or against one party or another could be construed as partisan activity. I've been both a DRO and a Poll Clerk on several occasions since 1993, so I found this new rule to be surprising. Since the advance polls start tomorrow, I therefore have to be totally neutral from that date. So I can get it in by the drop date, I have the following thoughts.

This started out as the most competitive race in ages ... certainly, in my lifetime. For the first time we have had three candidates with equally compelling visions for Canada, with roughly equal chances of winning. Since then, much to my surprise, the NDP has faded somewhat, and the Liberals and Conservatives are neck and neck. I can't see how either party can make it to the magic number of 170 in the next ten days. Then again, very few pundits predicted David Cameron would win a majority back in May - one of the few who got it right was John McLaughlin.

This means that more than likely, we'll see some kind of alliance with the Liberals, NDP and the Green Party. (The BQ probably won't be needed.) I doubt there will be a coalition, but there may be some kind of agreement that common policies will be adopted as well as some planks unique to each party. The leading party in the group would then get support for "supply" (i.e. appropriations) for a set period of time. This would be like the Liberal - NDP accord in Ontario in 1985, although I prefer to call such an agreement a non-aggression pact or a cabal. Calling it that may be harsh, I know; but after twenty years of nastiness in Parliament, some kind of civility would be more than welcome.

So whom am I supporting? I'm not going to tell you that. (LOL) Actually, I already voted by mail. I certainly did not vote for the Cons (but I will of course treat their scrutineers fairly on the 19th). I would have voted for the Green Party - however, the ruling party got rid of direct party subsidies some time ago. I believe that viable parties should get public financing, and a large percentage vote for Elizabeth May, say 10%, would have under the old rules provided some much needed seed money and made the Greens a real contender. It's unfortunate, because in Europe the Greens can be coalition makers or breakers - in fact, they actually are in charge of at least one state in Germany.

Frankly, I find both Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau distasteful as leaders. Both are trying to be pragmatic which is necessary in Canada, but each have policy planks I have trouble with. There are too many to be detailed here. If there was a Muldeau or a Trucair, that might have been different. Suffice it to say, either would be real bland as Prime Minister. But maybe that's what we need.

So what about the local candidates? Depends where you are.

I'm in Hamilton East - Stoney Creek, as a result of a boundary change this year. The incumbent, Wayne Marston, is with the NDP and a very competent MP. I think he has it in the bag. One poll tracker has him at 75% odds, but at the beginning he was at nearly 90%. Some movement there ... and keep in mind that Lower Stoney Creek tends to skew towards the other two parties, largely because of its middle class caché. (Upper SC is in the new Flamborough - Glanbrook district, which doesn't make sense, the urbanized part of it, west of Centennial Pkwy, fits in more naturally with Hamilton Mountain.) The other part of the district is much more lower class and they cling to the NDP quite consistently. But both halves have large immigrant populations. Loyalties do depend on which party gave you your landing papers or citizenship, but that may be changing as younger voters flex their options more openly.

The Conservative - I don't even know who Diane Bubanko is, but she's running in second place, much to my surprise.

The Liberal? Bob Bratina, who was a radio DJ for 40 years, including a very long running morning talk show.  (He was known as one of the "mayors of the morning", along with the long retired but still active Paul Hanover.) He also served on city council before a very embattled single term as Mayor of this city ... a consolidated city-county that hasn't quite been that successful since the merger in 2000. He stands tall - quite literally, I met him in the receiving line at City Hall after the death of Lincoln Alexander, and he must be at least 6'4". But I think people still have a bitter taste for how he managed the city, which explains why he's running in third place. I wouldn't count him out, though ... a solid GOTV could make this a surprise.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Nice choice. But with FPTP, I had to make a choice. I did, and I'm comfortable with it. But I'd still prefer MMR, where you choose a party (for PR allocation) AND a local candidate. That's the system they use in Germany, Wales and Northern Ireland, among other places.That way, I could split my vote, and heavens knows there have been elections when I have wanted to do exactly that. To choose someone for PM, but also choose someone from a different party as my representative would be nice.

All I can say is, as a DRO, make sure you do vote. Like CBS alumnus Bob Schieffer likes to say, "Go vote ... it will make you feel big and strong.” It's your tax dollars, you should have a say in who gets to spend that money.

P.S. There are still jobs to be had on election day, if you have time to spare. DROs, poll clerks, information officers ... just go to http://elections.ca, type in your postal code and you'll find the number for your district's office. The drawback is you'll have to vote in advance, but they'll take care of that as well. Trust me, it's fun, and you'll get to meet a lot of people ... often times, those in your own neighbourhood! (And you'll get money in your pocket for a day's work, starting at thirteen bucks per hour, depending on the position.)

P.S.S. In case you were wondering, I filled in an application online, but also asked the winning candidate from the last election - Mr Marston - to nominate me as a DRO (since the party that finished first in a district gets right of first refusal for DROs, unless the positions for all polls are not filled in by a certain date; in which case the returning officer decides, while the second place party gets that right for poll clerks). Which path I was chosen from, I won't know until my training this week, probably I don't need to know ... but I'm still glad to do what I consider a civic duty.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Look who we're dealing with in the TPP

So the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal has been initialled. I'm not prepared to discuss the merits of the agreement. But let's consider the countries that are in it, besides Canada: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan - as well as the US.

Australia, Chile, New Zealand and Japan have fairly comparable human rights records and are well established democracies. 

Peru can rightly be called a democracy, but it has faced an insurgency from Maoists for as long as I can remember. Its human rights record - not the best, although better than many in this grouping.

Mexico has its huge drug problem. When just one city – Juarez – has 17,000 murders in just one year, but the neighboring city of El Paso has just three, you know there’s a crisis. Mexico too is a democracy, but still a fragile one.

Brunei and Vietnam have appalling human rights records. Especially on the rights of LGBTs.

Singapore doesn’t allow its press to criticize its foreign policy – only those of other countries. Districts are gerrymandered to ensure the ruling party always wins, although last time they got “just” 65% of seats, compared to the usual 80 to 90. Plus, in what other country is it illegal to chew gum without a license? Seriously.

Malaysia has a somewhat better human rights record, but far from a sparkling one. Elections there tend to be rather suspect.

Gone is the concept of linkage - you get freer trade if you expand rights. I find that unacceptable.

I say no to this arrangement. With the top four countries, yes. Mexico and the US that's a done deal anyway. The others ... clean up your acts as well as your domestic security issues, then we can talk.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

About those shared cost programs ...

In last night's final debate, Tom Mulcair said if he's elected, then Quebec - and only that province - would get the option to opt out of new shared cost programs, including his $15 per diem child care program.

I realize Canada has never been totally equal on social programs. For example, every province has the right to opt out of OAS and the CPP. Quebec, so far, is the only province to get out of the latter, with the RRQ. Other provinces can, presuming reciprocity in benefits is maintained - but so far, no one has. Even the proposed Ontario plan is just an add-on, not a complete substitute.

Every province can opt out of parental benefits for UI. Quebec, too, is so far the only province to do so - but that doesn't mean, as with the case above, no other province can.

As for education? Six provinces each have their own rules, including Ontario. Only four - the Maritimes and BC - are bound by the "old" rules.

The Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords each proposed that every province should be able to opt out of social programs provided they provide a substitute program that provides a similar result and objective. I think that's a good principle to follow here in the present day. If a province - any province, or territory for that matter - can provide a better program for less cost to the consumer, or even totally free, they should be able to and not be constrained by federal rules.

Personally, I favour child-care to be means-tested. Free for people on welfare and other indigents, then on a sliding scale upwards based on accurately declared income on a family's T1s. I wouldn't mind a cap-out, but even then I don't see why anyone  - even the one percent - should pay more than 20 bucks a day per child. And of course, if a family wants to raise their pre-school kids at home, I support that too, with a much enhanced amount for child benefits to reflect the offset.

But I don't support one size fits all. After all, this is Canada. We are a real federation of ten provinces and three territories. Each province may get specific rights in the Constitution, but we are not, as is sometimes alleged, Quebec and TROC ("The Rest of Canada"). Mulcair - and the other leaders, if they are so thinking - need to be reminded of that.

Friday, October 2, 2015

What's "barbaric" exactly?

Today, the PMS campaign announced if it gets re-elected on October 19th it will introduce legislation to make illegal "barbaric" practices. On the surface, this may sound, well, sound. There are very few people in Canada who think FGM is acceptable. Other forms of torture should be illegal, and in fact already are. But how far would this go? Do animal sacrifices for religious purposes count? What about radical forms of corporal punishment, such as using a switch?

Remember Herouxville? The declaration they issued that ostensibly was about a town's values but was entirely directed at Muslims, effectively saying they weren't welcome in the rural town? I have a feeling this is nothing but an attempt to shore up the Con vote in rural Quebec, where the NDP is holding on just, and the Liberals may be finally starting to gain round.

We should all have common values. But they need to be common, not just one party's. Besides which, what one person may see as "barbaric" is perfectly acceptable to another. On top of the "old stock" comment the other week, this isn't helping anyone.