Friday, January 27, 2006

"Ontario wants in!"

If you didn't see it, Ontario Premier Dalton McGunity began his first post federal election press conference yesterday by walking up to the podium and declaring "Ontario wants in!".

It was one of the funniest things I've heard a politician say in a long time (that is to say the most intentionally funny thing I've heard from a politician in a long time). Of course he was being (semi) fecitious, and the assembled press got a good laugh, so I wanted to give our Premier props for a good line!

I for one laughed out loud.

Of course a third of the Tory caucus is from Ontario (there are 40 Ontario Tory MPs and only 28 Alberta Tory MPs) so we're still "in", and I imagine Harper will show just how "in" we still are with his cabinet appointments (afterall, it's pretty hard to ignore 40% of the population, if you plan on winning a majority some day!).

I'm concerned Toronto's needs might not be addressed as well as they need to be under a Tory government, but then, it's also hard to ignore a population (the GTA) almost twice as large as Alberta's. Toronto needs to remain successful for Ontario to remain successful, and Harper surely wants (and needs) that, so my worry is on hold for now.

Anyway, nice job Premier! No politician that was actually trying to be funny has made me laugh so hard in a LONG time!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One last round of number crunching....

... before I start to sound like a bitter broken record.

And keep in mind I'm not certain how best for us to fix this, but I think we definitely need to talk about it. Unfortunately, the inequities in our system that lead to a somewhat poor translation of popular vote to parliamentary power only ever disadvantage parites with less power, and advantage those in government, or close to forming a government, so it will always be difficult to effect any reform. But surely with our second minority government in a row, and the weakest minority ever, this is the closest we've ever come to "winning conditions" for some form of reform of how we choose our leaders, and I think it would be a shame if we didn't at least TRY to take advantage of that (and let me just say how VERY impressed I would be with the Tories if they DID move on this file, despite the current system giving them MORE power than their share of the popular vote. The Liberals never gave this more than lip service... because it wasn't in their partisan interests... maybe Prime Minister Harper will be different).

Anyway, the numbers. Here's another interesting way of looking at the relationship between the popular vote, and a party's representation in Parliament. How many seats in the House did each party win, per 1 million votes cast for the party nation-wide? The answer is interesting:

The Bloc won 32 seats for every 1 million Bloc votes cast.
The Tories won 23 seats for every 1 million Tory votes cast.
The Liberals won 23 seats for every 1 million Liberal votes cast.

The NDP won 11 seats for every 1 million NDP votes cast.

I would never say that the popular vote should be some absolute means of determining a party's power in th House, but the numbers above seem DECIDEDLY unfair to me, and it just seems to me that our electoral system could (and should) be reformed to do a MUCH better job of reflecting the popular will of Canadians. This would certainly lead to more minority parliaments. But if the folks in Ottawa can get their act together in this next parliament, we may just decide that that wouldn't be such a bad thing! The Bloc will hate this of course, but hey, if that's not a reason in itself to do it, then I don't know what is!


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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

An interesting number crunch...

This doesn't necessarily MEAN anything, but I thought it was an interesting experiment. Divide each parties number of votes (, into the number of seats they received, to see how their popular vote relates to their power in parliament.

The BQ received 30,432 votes nation-wide per seat won.
The Tories received 43,305 votes nation-wide per seat won.
The Liberals received 43,457 votes nation-wide per seat won.
The NDP received 89,333 votes nation-wide per seat won.
The Greens received 665,876 votes nation-wide - no seats.

Again, what this means, if it "means" anything is up to debate, but given how dramatically skewed to the positive I knew the numbers would be quite for the BLOC, I was pretty shocked at how skewed they are to the negative they are for the NDP.

Now, of course, this doesn't mean that the NDP needed 89,333 votes for each seat they received, or that the Tories only needed 43,305 votes to get each seat they got. What I think it actually means though, is that a lot of NDP (and Green) votes are rendered relatively meaningless given the way our system skews the national popular will.

I don't know what the solution is, but I just can't get around the fact that the NDP and the Greens just won 22% of the votes in a Canadian election, and they're being rewarded with 9.5% of the power. That just doesn't seem right. Is it just me, or do others think that if you win one in five votes you should get more than one in ten seats???

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Is it time for proportional representation yet???

We all know, I think, that our chances of getting a PR system out of a majority government are two.... slim, and none.

But now we have our second minority parliament in a row. Is it possible we'll finally get electoral reform? The Liberals have always benefitted from our current system (and still do) but then again, so do the Conservatives. I know the old Reform Party used to talk about electoral reform all the time, but will the CPC actually do anything? I'm not so sure.

The Conservatives just won 36.3% of the popular vote, and low and behold they have 40% of the seats in the House. The Liberals 30.2% pop. vote, got them 33.4% of the seats. And the BQ, got only 10.5% of the popular vote, and they'll occupy 16.6% of the H of C seats (that's a different situation of course, so I'll mostly leave that aside for simplicity).

Add that all up, and 77% of the popular vote just filled over 90% of parliament's seats!!!

How is that possible? Well, of course, once again, the NDP and Greens don't get representation in the House anywhere NEAR their representation in the popular vote. The NDP received 17.5% of Canadians' votes, and will occupy only 9.4% of the Commons seats. And the Greens had better do something good with the money they'll receive based on the 4.5% of the vote they received, because they won't be represented in parliament at all.

Anyway, I'm interested in what people think about some form of PR generally, and I'd love to hear comments from both under-represented NDP/Green voters, and over-represented Liberal/Tory voters.

Just to give you some fuel for discussion, here's the breakdown of parliament if parties received seats in the House based solely on their popular vote...which isn't how PR would actually work, of course, but it is illustrative of what a poor job our current system does of representing the popular will of the nation as a whole (NB: The BQ are obviously a huge anomoly here, so I gave them all the "extra" seats from fractions of percentages, though this number is obviously still not reflective of their unique situation... let's leave them mostly aside for now...):

CPC: 111 seats
Liberals: 93 seats
NDP: 54 seats
BQ: 36 seats
Green Party: 13 seats

Interestingly (although, meaninglessly, since the BQ numbers are so wacky) in this parliament, a Liberal-NDP-Green coaltion has 160 votes... more than a majority.... which perhaps isn't so surprising given that those three parties combined received more than 50% of votes cast last night.

As an NDP voter, this always drives me nuts. I can certainly accept that 66.5% of Canadians have voted for what I see as centre to centre-right parties (Lib/CPC), and that's fine. And (leaving the BQ aside...), that only 22% of Canadians voted for centre-left parties is disappointing, but still, a slight improvement.

But giving 73% of the power to the 66% group, and 9.5% of the power to the 22% group just feels unfair somehow.

Now, maybe I'm just bitter that the Conservatives are about to form a government despite the fact that over 62% of Canadians voted for parties to the left of the CPC, but I don't think this is a left-right issue. When the Liberal were in first, and the Tories in second, the Liberals bennefitted from this phenomenon more than the Tories, and now that the Tories have reversed that, the magnifying effect helps THEM more.

Anyway, I'll continue to mull over the fact that winning 22% of the votes in Canada is sometimes only worth 9.5% of the power, and that 77% of the votes can fill 90% of parliament's seats, and I'm interested to hear from people on this, particularly any who don't see a problem with that.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Wave goodbye...

So, this week all the news is about the possibility of a Liberal collapse and a Tory majority. Just in case this happens, I want to take this opportunity to say goodbye to a few things I used to like, or would have liked to see happen in the future.

Goodbye Kyoto. You weren't perfect, but I'll never get over that "it won't save the planet by itself, so let's not do anything at all" argument that has tormented you all these years.

Goodbye National Daycare program. I thought you were a good idea since Brian Mulroney promised to implement you over a decade ago, and don't feel too bad, most of the country wants you too. But the Tories want everyone to stay at home with their kids, and since they're not interested in creating childcare spaces with any "standards" or "regulations" for the quality of the programs, and few people will have any new choices with their $5 a day (before taxes), they'll probably get their wish by default. But at least the government won't raise our kids, and they'll be sent to expensive, regulation-free, privately-run centres set up by private companies, the way God intended.

Goodbye new deal with aboriginals. I know it took over a year, and a lot of hard work to come up with a new plan that all the provinces, the federal government and first nations groups would all agree on. But it took just as long to come up with a childcare deal with all the provinces agreement, and all the funding in place, and the Tories are gonna scrap all of that too. So, sadly, your deal doesn't stand a chance, and Harper has as much as said so.

Goodbye ban on handguns. You weren't going to make life safer, but I did like the optics of our nation banning people from owning weapons specifically designed to kill people. You sent the right message, and will be missed.

Goodbye income tax cut. I bought a new T.V. with you this year. You will be sorely missed. (And my T.V. will not get a new sound system).

Goodbye rational drug policy. I guess we're all the way back to "lock the criminals up... forget about 'treatment'" we'll see how well our new war on drugs goes. Based on the American experience, I'm certainly confident.

Goodbye "we do not engage in hostilities that are not sanctioned by the United Nations". I always thought it was a good idea to stop countries from attacking one another for reasons other than self-defence, so I'll miss the charm of "international law", and "sense of proportion".

Goodbye undisputed marriage equality. If we're lucky, the equality will stay, but undisputed is about to go back to "disputed". I hope everyone enjoyed the debate the first time around, 'cause here it comes again!

Goodbye money for cities. Guess I'll have to buy a car.

But, of course, with every goodbye, there is a hello, so hello to all these wonderful new policies!

Hello GST cut! You are pretty meaningless to my everyday life, and I'd be better off with an equivalent income tax deduction. But on the bright side, you are a stupid economic policy that won't help productivity, or help accomplish anything beyond getting people who don't know any better (and don't know any economists) to vote Tory. (Oh... that actually a "bright" side???) But hey, I guess I'll save a quarter the next time I buy a CD!

Hello Crawford! I'm going to see you on T.V. a lot more now. And you're a charming Texas town, so I'm quite pleased with that!

Hello private Health Care! People don't like you I'm afraid, but the Liberals never uninvited you from the party, so you were always going to arrive eventually. The only difference now is that the Tories will give you a lift, and buy you the first round.

Hello abortion debate. No one's seen you since before I was born, and everyone I know was pretty happy with that. It'll be interesting to meet you once Tory supporters start demanding the party address you!

Hello property rights! How we ever developed a constitution without specific protection for property owners is beyond me. I mean, what were the fathers of Confederation trying to say? That it doesn't matter whether or not you own property? That "rights" belong to humans, regardless of economic status, and that there is no need to constitutionally protect your "ownership" rights? We just went straight from having special treatment for the upper classes, and protection of their things, to equality, and a complete lack of special treatment or acknowledgement of the rights of "owners"! 'Bout time we reversed course on that.

Hello Foreign Minister Stockwell Day! You were always one of my favourite punchlines, and I'm guessing that will continue once it is both punchline AND reality....

I'm sure I'm missing a million hellos and goodbyes that we'll all need to say if the Tories get a majority (some of them huge no doubt... I didn't rack my brain over this post or anything) . Feel free to add them in the comments!

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