Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007 Canadian Blog Awards

Thanks to Scott Tribe for the nomination in the "Best Conservative Blog" category. Looking at the competition, I definitely get the feeling I'm the snowball in that race.

Head over to the main site to nominate away or nominate me for more stuff. Hint hint ... :)

Updated: "I definitely get the feeling I'm the snowball in that race" should get a nomination for the best mixed metaphor ever.

Updated x2: I've also been nominated for "Best Political Blog" and "Best Blog Post Series". I appreciate the nominations.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Ministry of Knowledge

In today's Globe & Mail, Preston Manning asks "Just how did we let this happen?". It's behind the Globe's subscription site.

In the article, Mr. Manning talks about the federal government's inability to react to "scientific" crises due to a lack of scientific knowledge available to the politicians. Mr. Manning talks about the lack of medical isotopes resulting from the shutdown of an aging nuclear reactor at Chalk River as an impetus to create new scientific projects funded by the government.

While I think Mr. Manning's cause is a noble one, I can't help but smell something funny.

This paragraph, for example.
[T]his country has yet to figure out a funding formula for publicly funded science projects that insures long-term viability. Capital funds, personnel funds, operating funds and infrastructure funds are all required to energize a big science project such as the development of a next-generation unclear research reactor.

Wait, what? Funding formula for publicly funded science projects? Capital funds, personnel funds, operating funds, and infrastructure funds? Insuring long-term viability?

Now, I'll leave that for the moment because I have something else I want to get to, but do you see how you could substitute "science projects" with "health care" or "education" or, you get the idea. Indeed, sound public investment can be conservative talking points. Imagine injecting capital funds, personnel funds, operating funds and infrastructure funds into energizing a big health care project? And, he's a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute.

But, that's for a different story.

Further down the piece, Mr. Manning suggests a remedy for this lack of scientific knowledge in the public sphere:

Create a separate federal ministry and department of science and technology.

Until recently, we had a couple of ministries promoting scientific research and technological innovation - Environment, Natural Resources, and Industry Canada - until the government felt they were not cooperating with the message of Canada's New Government.

In addition, it seems to me that scientific establishments abound in this country - universities could use injections of such funding.

And, that's why this whole piece smells funny. The entire infrastructure is there - both scientific and political.

The problem, especially for this Conservative government, is that it would be unable to control the message. You can control the message if you create a ministry within the government (or, shut down the message of an existing ministry). You can control the message if you "recruit members of the science community to run for office", and ultimately run for your party. You can say that leaders appointed to work in Crown corporations should be appointed based upon merit but you can appoint those with political ties too as Mr. Manning warns ...

[A]ppointments to the boards of Crown corporations ... have been based as much on political patronage considerations as on scientific or business competency.

... and even when they are appointed based on merit, they are still targeted for partisan attack.

However, I'm drawn to this paragraph in the middle of Mr. Manning's piece:

[M]any Canadian scientific establishments [have] never really learned to put its key messages in the form and language necessary to communicate effectively with taxpayers, politicians, or the media.

Why is it necessary for scientific establishments to communicate effectively with taxpayers - why must a scientific message be entirely catered to the taxpaying audience? Why must science be tailored to a cost benefit analysis of this nature? I'm presuming we're not talking about research into a new formula for streak-free Windex here, but real scientific research.

It would be very easy to snuff out an individual research project if it did not hold up to this type of financial scrutiny, never mind the fact that that individual project could have profound implications down the road.

And, so it's easy then to see how the scientific message can be ultimately controlled. You can control the message by turning off the project funding if it doesn't satisfy the taxpayer.

I would like to believe Mr. Manning. I just can't, however. I would like to see sound public investment as much as the next person, and I'm glad that Mr. Manning has taken the leap that one can be conservative and call for more publicly funded institutions, but I can't help but question the ultimate motives.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Open Letter to the Canada Revenue Agency

To whom it may concern,

Recently, it has come to my attention that the federal cabinet has the authority to issue remission orders to taxpayers to excuse them from paying taxes. According to the Ottawa Citizen:

Remission orders are rare and are usually granted to individuals in cases of extreme hardship or a major financial setback that is complicated by extenuating factors. They will also be given if the tax agency made a mistake, gave wrong advice or the tax debt was an unintended consequence of the law. Remissions are a last resort and issued at cabinet's discretion after all other appeals are exhausted.

I also know that the Conservative Party of Canada, fully and without equivocation, stands up for taxpayers.

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn lobbied on behalf of his consitutents claiming that they were being "taxed ... for money they never saw."

I agree, and I want it established that you cannot be taxed on money you never see.

As an income earner, I too am routinely taxed on money I never see.

In addition to being identically impacted as these fine folks were, I also happen to be in the unfortunate circumstance of having my income tax deducted at source, if you can believe it! This has the effect of making my net income less than my gross income which seems to be a gross violation of the "no taxation without seeing the money first" pledge.

I would like to understand the process for applying for a remission order from the federal cabinet to excuse myself from ever paying taxes because I do not ever see the money. I'm delighted by the item in the pledge ensuring consistency:

We will apply laws consistently and equitably. While each situation is unique, we will ensure taxpayers are treated equally under similar circumstances.

Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Me.

PS. Because I also time a lot of my bill payments for when I get paid, I find myself paying bills with money I never see - can I get a cabinet remission order to stop me from having to pay bills as well? Please let me know.

[H/T, Garth Turner]

For the Record

I will not be supporting a call for a leadership review at the February convention. I continue to support and endorse John Tory as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

That said, while I oppose the movement to call for a leadership review, I do not condemn it.

It's just politics afterall.

I would just suggest to whomever is thinking of toppling Mr. Tory through a leadership review, make sure now is the time you want to try and make your move. It will not be a coronation and there are MPP's with significant support and backing already in the legislature that you'll need to overcome or incorporate into your support base.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Respecting the Democratic Process

Courrier Laval : Ex-Liberal turns Conservative
Stating that his conversion to Conservatism was a recent occurrence, Mr. [Agop T.] Evereklian explained that he saw no possibility of advancement within Liberal ranks, "under the present circumstances." I appreciate Mr. Harper's leadership, he keeps his word. He respects the democratic process. There's transparency. Even though I'm a newcomer to Conservative ranks, I had an equal chance of winning the nomination," he stated.

*cough* Mark Warner *cough*.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bill C-22

I would like a partisan federal Conservative from Ontario to explain how they can support this bill (if they do so). And, it has to go beyond Mr. Van Loan's explanation that Ontario is getting more seats so Ontario should not complain.

Ontario Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs : Backgrounder [PDF]
The federal government recently introduced new legislation to change the formula for readjusting seats among the provinces in the House of Commons.

If passed, this legislation would be implemented after the 2011 Census has been completed and detailed population statistics generated. This normally takes about nine months and the 2011 Census could be expected to be ready early in 2012. The Chief Electoral Officer will then make a calculation based on this bill and proceed to establish the electoral boundaries commissions in the ten provinces necessary to implement the readjustment.

This note explains in step-by-step detail how the new legislation works.

[H/T, Garth Turner]

Reading the details, it's hard not to feel small.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Could Have Been the Whiskey, Might Have Been the Gin

Despite posting a couple of times, it seems my hangover from the Ontario election is taking a little longer to get over.

I will be back to regular posting soon.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mark Warner

Why was Mark Warner dumped as the Conservative candidate in Toronto Centre?

Conservative officials have been actively resisting Warner's emphasis on housing, health care and cities issues, he said, even blocking him from participating in a Star forum on poverty earlier this year and pointedly removing from his campaign literature a reference to the 2006 international conference on AIDS in Toronto – which Warner attended but Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not.

Oh, silly me.

Updated: Mark Warner was interviewed on CBC Metro Morning [RAM].

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why Ontarians Said No to MMP

The York University Institute for Social Research released a study today, answering the question "Why Ontarians said no to MMP" - it's in today's Globe & Mail, and online behind their subscriber firewall.

The study concludes that a lack of information about the referendum was what doomed the referendum to defeat.

The study also suggests that had Ontarians had more information about the electoral reform referendum, specifically had Ontarians had more information about what MMP was (proportional results, two votes, infrequent majorities, list candidates) and who proposed it (who the Citizens' Assembly was and how they were chosen), the results would have been 63% in favour, and 37% opposed.

It concludes that:
This is probably heartening, and yet disappointing, for electoral reformers. And perhaps opponents should show more relief than smugness.

Some have dismissed the claim that ignorance about the referendum was the cause of its defeat, arguing that there were plenty of commercials and ads informing the public about the referendum. Or, presumably there was enough information out there for people to educate themselves - the cure for apathy is "not to be apathetic" obviously. Duh.

Well, for political geeks, those ads were pretty apparent because we tend to pay attention to them. I tend to notice ads and spots for things I'm interested in - I think the average person does.

For those who are apathetic to politics, it was just a lot of noise mixed in with a lot of other political noise - along with the latest Britney Spears gossip and a new release of Halo.

Whatever Halo is.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Vacation ...

I'm going to take a political blogging break for a little while.

I will be back, just not sure when at this point.

Normally I fire up the comment moderation when I go away, but I just fired up some new posts. So, look for the moderation to start up around the weekend.

Should something breaking happen, I'll probably come back sooner.

Later skaterz.

Updated: Comment moderation is on. See you when I see you.

Updated x 2: Well, that was quicker than I anticipated.

On John Tory ...

I continue to support and endorse John Tory as the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

I supported John Tory over Jim Flaherty and Frank Klees for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. I carried a sign, I still have my 4-not-8 t-shirt.

John Tory is the right kind of conservative to lead this party, and we should not let this electoral defeat derail the positive message the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party brings.

Some argue that it's bravado that's keeping Mr. Tory around. I don't think so - it's his first term in Opposition, and some would have argued that it was bravado that kept a Mr. McGuinty around after his first term in Opposition.

Make no mistake - we didn't do well, but the next time, we will win.

The next few months will be interesting, but let's keep our focus.

On the Progressive Conservative Party ...

I'm not going to lie, and I'm not going to delude you into thinking that the results of yesterday's election came as a shock to me. It was disappointing, of course, but not shocking.

The campaign was a long one for me. I was a Progressive Conservative supporter who found himself on the opposite side of my party on two fairly substantive issues - electoral reform and extending funding to faith-based schools. The former was completely opposite. The latter, while I understood the fairness aspect and could support it, I'd have preferred a single secular public school system - Mr. Tory should have campaigned on that.

One of the things you never really get used to, as a partisan cheerleader, is exactly what triggers or does not trigger the electorate to move. If you had have asked me two months ago if allocating a whole 2.5% of a Conservative public education budget (or 2.8%, if you use the Liberal budget numbers) to funding faith-based schools like the Catholic school board or the Mennonite school in St. Catharines, I would have said you were nuts.

Shows to go you, I guess.

That said, the rest of the Progressive Conservative election platform was the right platform for Ontario. The Liberals have successfully branded themselves as "centrist" when in fact they are not - they are what you would call "anything to get elected-ist".

During this whole campaign, I can't remember a single thing Dalton McGuinty said, except for Family Day.

The Progressive Conservative Party must continue to embrace progressive conservatism. It must reconfirm that:
  • The free market can determine and regulate many things, but the free market cannot govern social justice and social equality, and profit cannot be the driving factor behind education and health care. Those things require sound public investment.
  • That individual freedoms must be protected and respected.
  • Fiscal prudence doesn't mean tax cuts or program cuts every month. Fiscal prudence means simply spending when spending is required and not spending when it's not required. If a program is wasteful, or not generating results, you cease the bleed and review. We must recognize that we need sound public infrastructure, that we need sound public investment, we need to make sure that there's a basic fulfilment of public needs. And we can do that and return some of that money to taxpayers - we can eliminate wasteful spending, revitalize public spending, and return what's leftover. Those things are all possible all at once.
The Liberal Party is unwilling or incapable of delivering sound public investments. That's why we need a Progressive Conservative Party.

On Electoral Reform ...

If you've been living under a rock, then you probably have not heard that the referendum to select the mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system in Ontario has failed. This is extremely disappointing to me, but not so much that I feel I will give up on pushing for electoral reform in Ontario or Canada.

I think though, it will be some time before we see a real proposal for electoral reform in Ontario again. There is no advantage for either the Ontario Liberals or the Ontario Progressive Conservatives to pursue it.

There are just too many flaws with first-past-the-post (FPTP) to simply fix it - it simply does not work.

I truly believe that some form of proportional representation is the right direction to move in. It makes sense to me that if a group, however it collects itself, should receive a certain percentage of the vote, they should receive the same percentage of legislative weight - regardless of how I feel about their policies.

I haven't done a lot of reading on single transferable voting systems - but, it seems to me that a system where you have to vote for a second or third choice just seems wrong, somehow. I probably will read more into it.

When's Family Day?

I figure, I was about 1 for 5 yesterday.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party is the official Opposition.

John Tory lost to Kathleen Wynne in Don Valley West.

MMP was defeated.

My local PC candidate was defeated.

On the bright side, however, I get a day off in February.

I have a few thoughts I want to get out, specifically on the Progressive Conservative Party, John Tory, and the future of electoral reform. I'll do that a bit later.

Then, I'm going on vacation.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Comment Moderation On

Since I'm going to be out and about tomorrow, I'm putting comment moderation on until after the polls in Ontario close.

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - The Summary

Over five pieces, I have discussed the truth about FPTP. If you couldn't tell, most of it was in response to the ironically named "Truth" About MMP list put out by the advocates for the status quo.

The fact of the matter is, the referendum isn't about choosing whether or not we should move to mixed member proportional (MMP); it's about choosing to remain on the first-past-the-post or moving to mixed member proportional.

The advocates of the current system will tell you the real solution is to fix the current system and not to change, but somehow in the same breath argue that the system has worked well unchanged for a couple of hundred years.

The advocates of the current system will tell you they support electoral reform but that the real solution is to find a different electoral system other than MMP, but somehow fail to explain why we haven't explored a different electoral system for a couple of hundred years.

The fact of the matter is, the advocates of the current system want to remain on first-past-the-post. What they don't want you to know, however, is the truth about first-past-the-post.
This is the truth about FPTP.

Updated: Reworked the wording of the last paragraph.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Andrew Coyne on Democracy

Because this quote needs to be repeated over and over again.

The test of a democratic institution is not whether it produces outcomes I happen to agree with, but whether it accurately reflects the public's preferences.
- Andrew Coyne

[H/T, Political Staples]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Proven Strategy

Back here, I said that I thought it was a silly political strategy for the Ontario Liberal Party to ignore Durham Region.

Well, apparently I was wrong.

Metroland Durham Region Media Group: Progressive Conservatives deserve your vote
New to the provincial scene after a run for mayor of Toronto in 2003, Mr. Tory has proved a quick study. He has made a number of trips to Durham Region and has shown a deep interest in issues our way whether it be the badly needed extension of Hwy. 407 past Brock Road in Pickering, the need for a new hospital in north Whitby, or the requirement that the underfunding of the 905 region be fixed. He has a plan in his platform to fix these problems.

...

Durham voters have a chance to help play a major role and to get Ontario moving in the right direction after Oct. 10. They can best do that by voting Progressive Conservative.

I personally believe that Dalton should continue to ignore Ontario - similar to the way he previously governed.

Seems to be working for him.

MMP : Garth Turner : One Voter, Two Votes

While I'd like to think of Garth Turner as a "conservative" for MMP, he is in fact, technically a "Liberal" for MMP.

The Turner Report : One voter. Two votes.

The coming provincial referendum in Ontario is the latest attempt to break the influence of machine politics. A citizen’s assembly came up with a compromise system called MMP. In brief, citizens will get two votes, one for a local rep and one for the party they want to form government. The guy getting the most votes in a riding (like now) will be elected. In addition there will be a list of other candidates-at-large and they will become MPPs in a proportion equal to the support their party received. The party with the most elected from both ridings and lists gets to govern.

...

A proportional representation system empowers voters. It gives them more choice. It ensures the majority opinion is reflected in government. It is fairer. It allows smaller parties a role. It encourages compromise. It lets parties increase the role of women and minorities as list candidates. It permits citizens to decide on the best local candidate, and also the best party to govern. One voter. Two votes.

And, I seriously hope, an end to politics as we know it.

And, just to further discuss one aspect of Mr. Turner's post. He comments that "all responsible parties under a PR system like the one Ontario is debating will surely be nominating their list candidates in an open and fair manner"; this is indeed the case.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

MMP : FPTP Supporter Need Not be Confused

Over at Aaron Lee Wudrick's blog, Joanne (True Blue), noted supporter of the first-past-the-post electoral system, laments:
You said a mouthful, especially the part about not voting early because things can change.

I'm really confused now. John Tory convinced me that [faith based]-funding was an issue of fairness. The UN backs him up.

Now my local PC candidate says he'll vote against it.

If only Ontario had a democratic electoral system where a vote for the candidate could be separated from the vote for the party platform. There would be no confusion.

If only ...

While Joanne may ultimately come to a different conclusion, a similar voter exists who is left scratching their heads having to decide which viewpoint they find the least offensive. It doesn't matter if they are voting Liberal, Conservative, NDP, or Green.

That person will either hold their nose and vote for someone or something they don't believe in, which is okay to those supporting FPTP, that's democracy after all. In the worse case, they'll stay home, and allow someone or something they don't believe in to be elected - that's also democracy, apparently.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Good News / Bad News

Good news...
Eglinton-Lawrence Liberal MP Joe Volpe is endorsing Progressive Conservative leader John Tory’s plan to extend public funding to faith-based private schools.

Bad news...

Eglinton-Lawrence Liberal MP Joe Volpe is endorsing Progressive Conservative leader John Tory’s plan to extend public funding to faith-based private schools.

I view it as one of those "glass half full" things. :)

[Source: Town Crier Online, Liberal MP backs Tory school plan]

I must now remark that the Ontario election for 2007 has officially jumped the shark if it's now legitimate to comment about Joe Volpe.

Free Vote on "Inclusive Public Education Policy"?

I think somebody reads this humble blog if this holds to be true.

CBC, Tory expected to allow free vote on extending school funding

Ontario Conservative Leader John Tory is expected to make a dramatic announcement Monday aimed at repairing the split within his party over his controversial promise to fund faith-based schools.

In a significant change, Tory is expected to allow a free vote on the issue of extending funding to private religious schools if his party wins the Oct. 10 election.

It doesn't change the fact that a legislature built on proportionality is better. These calls for free votes some of the time (read: politically expedient) is insufficient.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Referendum Discussion Online with Elections Ontario

Loren Wells, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, will be online with the Globe & Mail discussing the electoral reform referendum between 1 pm and 2 pm this afternoon.

Loren Wells, the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, has an extensive background in election administration in Canada, at both the federal and provincial levels.

At Elections Ontario, she deputizes for the Chief Electoral Officer and assists him with the administration of all aspects of the electoral process, including voter registration, the conduct of voting, the training of election officials and providing voter education and information to the public.

This will be an impartial discussion on the referendum:

By law, neither Ms. Wells nor other employees of Elections Ontario can take a position on the merits of the question on the referendum ballot. We will not forward to her any question that asks her to do that. Ms. Wells can answer your questions about the background to the referendum, the question, the mechanics of voting on it, the requirements for passage etc.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Open Letter to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party

Cross posted from Conservatives for MMP.

Fellow Tories:

This past year, the Ontario Citizens Assembly, a body that had one member chosen at random from each provincial constituency, has been studying the issue of electoral reform in the province. After studying various electoral models and consulting with citizens across the province, the OCA has recommended that the province adopt a Mixed Member Proportion electoral system over the current First Past the Post System. A provincial referendum on the issue has been scheduled to coincide with the October 10 provincial election.

The signatories of this letter have been longtime supporters of the PC Party of Ontario and are active members of Fair Vote Canada. Fair Vote Canada is a multi-partisan organization that has been actively campaigning for the adoption of some form of Proportional Representation. Although FVC does not endorse a specific form of PR, it is of the opinion that almost any form would be preferable to the current system.

Proportional Representation, if adopted, will help to make the democratic process in Ontario politics more efficient and more reflective of voters' wishes in the Province. This is an issue that we, as a party, should seriously consider.

Wilfred Day, a lawyer, electoral reform expert and member of Fair Vote Ontario, wrote an article entitled An Ontario Mixed Member Proportional Model, in which he conducted a simulation of the 2003 provincial election using an MMP model of PR in which there would be a total of 139 legislative seats, both constituency and regional. Day projected what the hypothetical results would be for each party had this system been used.

Day's results demonstrated that the Liberals would only have won a minority government under MMP with 65 seats. The PC's on the other hand would have won 49 seats, almost double the amount of seats the party actually won in 2003. The NDP would have taken 24 seats and the Green Party would have taken 4 seats.

(To read the entire report, e-mail justinodonnell@cogeco.ca to request a copy.)

As you can see, this form of PR would have been of benefit to our party in 2003, in that our loss would not have been as severe, and that our party would have gotten more even representation throughout Ontario. PR can be very beneficial to our party, and not just to the NDP or Green Party as some critics have suggested.

Had Ontario had a form of Proportional Representation in the 1987 Ontario election, the Ontario PC Party would not have suffered such a devastating defeat that reduced the party to third place in the legislature. Such big shifts as what occurred in 1987 are out of proportion to the more moderate shifts in the popular vote. Adopting MMP would help introduce a degree of stability to the electoral process where swings in party support would be more moderate and in line with the overall popular vote.

Over the next two weeks, I would urge all party members to familiarize themselves with the issue. Discuss it with family members, friends and other party members and make your feelings known on this issue to them. If you want more information on the issue, go to the Vote for MMP website (http://www.voteformmp.ca/).

It is only through a healthy debate that our party can make an informed decision on such an important issue. Our party has had a strong tradition of supporting grassroots democracy and respecting the wishes of Ontario voters. By endorsing MMP, we would be continuing with that tradition.

/Signed/

Patrick Boyer, Q.C.
Once and future MP for
Etobicoke-Lakeshore

J. Justin O'Donnell, M.L.S.
Past President
Niagara Centre P.C. Association

Monday, September 24, 2007

It Gets More Dysfunctional

John Tory and I are having what you could call a bit of a dysfunctional relationship at the moment.

I am a Progressive Conservative supporter who supports the mixed member proportional (MMP) referendum - one of three conservative bloggers who do - thanks for the plug, Greg! This has put me somewhat at odds with Mr. Tory, who has, via the National Post, voiced some concerns with the referendum.

That's fair. It's an important change in our electoral system, and differing opinions are to be expected.

One of Mr. Tory's counter recommendations for electoral reform goes as follows [CBC, PC leader calls for more free votes, fewer hours for MPPs]:
The Progressive Conservative leader said he wants to allow more free votes within a party so MPPs can vote their conscience.

...

"If we don't fix the system in which I profoundly believe, I think we run of the risk of alienation of the public from politicians and the political process," Tory told reporters Wednesday.

While I think this policy is long overdue, it seems to contradict this sentiment [Ottawa Citizen, Tory faces dissent over school funding]:

"However, you have my word that should [a bill to extend funding to faith-based education] come before the legislature, as it stands today, with the majority of my riding opposed, I will vote against it."

Mr. [Bill] Murdoch[, the Progressive Conservative incumbent in Bruce Grey Owen Sound], who had previously supported Mr. Tory on the issue, said he sent a letter to Mr. Tory asking for either a referendum or a free vote.

Answering questions after a campaign speech in Guelph, The Conservative leader would not speculate whether there would be a free vote if his party is elected and called Mr. Murdoch a "maverick."

"Bill Murdoch is Bill Murdoch. When you look up 'maverick' in the dictionary, you find his picture there in colour," he said.

In a legislature that allows free votes on matters of conscience, there is no such thing as a maverick. A maverick would then be someone who does not vote their conscience but instead follows a policy which the representative, in representing their riding, does not believe in.

Regardless of Mr. Murdoch's political history, it seems that this issue is highly contentious to the point where even incumbent candidates are questioning policy during an election.

If nothing else, this is a glowing example of why a legislature built on proportionality is the best all around.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Little Bits - September 22, 2007

Extremely busy with real life at the moment.
  1. I haven't watched the provincial leaders' debate yet, but from what I can tell - the Ontario PC Party thinks John Tory won, the Liberal Party thinks Dalton McGuinty won, and the NDP thinks Howard Hampton won; the media seems divided between Mr. Tory and Mr. McGuinty taking the debate.

    In the plus column to Mr. McGuinty, I think it was a brilliant move to take out the front page ads in the free dailies yesterday morning making it appear as though the papers were declaring Mr. McGuinty the winner.

  2. Andrew Coyne gives an excellent reason for, well, conservatives to support MMP in today's National Post [National Post, Why conservatives should support proportional representation]. Interesting to note is that one of my reasons to support MMP is that I do want to see a split within the Conservatives. A true centre-right party all on its own would do me just fine. I know some people get all riled up about small government and low taxes; I just want effective and efficient government.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MMP : Under FPTP, There Could Be No Opposition

If you thought 40% of the population voting for 70% of a legislature was bad, how about 40% of the population voting for 0% of the legislature? Take a look at the results of the 1987 New Brunswick general election.

Liberal - 60.39%
Progressive Conservative - 28.59%
NDP - 10.55%
Independents - 0.47%

In this election, the Liberal Party of New Brunswick won all 58 seats in the provincial legislature. A full 40% of the population was not even represented by one single member of an opposition party.

So, under the first past the post system, not only is it possible for a minority to elect a majority and for the second most popular party to form a majority government (see False Majorities) - it's even possible for an opposition to be completely shut out despite taking 40% of the vote.

This is democratic?

[H/T, Political Staples]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Poverty Conditions in Ontario Have Not Improved : Poll

Your Ontario Liberals are on a roll, folks. SES Research has released the results of another poll [PDF].

Now I'd like to ask your opinion on poverty levels in Ontario - that is the number of people who live at or below the poverty line. Do you believe there are more people, about the same number of people or fewer people living at or below the poverty line since the Ontario provincial Liberal government was elected in 2003?

Poverty levels (N=501, MOE ± 4.4%, 19 times out of 20)
More people 42%
About the same 35%
Fewer people 9%
Unsure 15%

77% of Ontarians believe that the number of people that live at or below the poverty line has either stayed the same or gotten worse.

Previously, 69% of Ontarians believed that health care had not improved - now we have 77% of Ontarians believing that poverty is an issue that the Ontario Liberals have utterly failed to address.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ontario Health Care has Not Improved : Poll

That's what 69% of Ontarians believe [PDF] according to a research survey conducted by SES Research.

Question: As you may know the Ontario provincial government has increased spending on healthcare by 30% to $49 billion since 2003. Taking this into consideration do you believe the quality of healthcare in Ontario has improved, stayed the same or worsened?

Improved/Worsened (N=501, MOE ± 4.4%, 19 times out of 20)
Improved: 24%
Stayed the same: 51%
Worsened: 18%
Unsure: 7%

69% of Ontarians believe that the quality of health care has either stayed the same or worsened since 2003.

I can only conclude that either Liberal hype is not matching reality or people are disappointed with Liberal policy on health care, so they used the survey to express that dissatisfaction.

Liberal policy usually dictates that by increasing funding to a particular program without a plan, it will necessarily improve the services under that program. I guess the gnomes come in when everyone is sleeping and perform hip replacements.

At the very least, Liberals believe spending funds without a plan should at least give the perception that services have improved under that program.

You'll hear press release after press release about how much Liberals spent on this program or that program, but you'll never hear what their goals are with that program or when (if?) they plan to achieve them.

Friday, September 14, 2007

John Tory and the Toronto Board of Trade

John Tory and the Progressive Conservative platform was a hit with the Toronto Board of Trade this afternoon:
"I believe we will never have a strong and prosperous Ontario without a strong and prosperous Toronto," Tory said, "Our plan recognizes the need to upload costs from the municipalities to the province. At the same time, I believe all governments must be able to look the taxpayer in the eye and assure them that every dollar is being spent as well as it can be. While I believe that there has been some work done by the City under the Mayor's leadership, I believe there is more to be done."

Tory outlines vision for Toronto at Board of Trade

Tory’s speech, including his promise to eliminate the capital tax, drew frequent applause from the sold-out audience and praise from Toronto Board of Trade President and CEO Carol Wilding.

"We’re here for the business community...and we put three fundamental issues in front of (the leaders): uploading, investment in infrastructure and the need to support economic growth in this city,” she said. "Quite clearly today, from Mr. Tory we heard very specific answers to those and some financial commitments in large magnitudes to invest in public transit, which is critical for this city."

Wilding continued, "We also put those questions in front of Mr. McGuinty and while we heard some discussion, you know we didn’t hear what we’d like to hear, we were disappointed in terms of addressing those."

It's clear that John Tory and the Progressive Conservative Party are the best option for a prosperous Toronto.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - Politics as Usual

What is tactical voting? Why is it prevalent in FPTP?

Tactical voting is voting for a party or a candidate that a voter may not want in an effort to defeat a candidate the voter does not want to win. Usually, the voter chooses the candidate most likely to defeat the candidate.

For example, a voter prefers Candidate A, but really dislikes Candidate B. If the voter perceives Candidate C has a better chance of defeating Candidate B, the voter will vote for Candidate C in the hopes of making sure Candidate B is defeated.

This has even occurred recently when Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty called for tactical voting. Hoping to defeat Opposition Leader, John Tory, he attacked the NDP by saying that "a vote for the NDP is in fact a vote for the Progressive Conservatives."

Tactical voting is often described as a vote against someone instead of a vote for someone. This tends to lead to voter apathy.

It's prevalent in FPTP for the simple fact it's only necessary to have the most votes in a riding, meaning close ridings have this occur more often. The candidate who benefits most from tactical voting will often play up fears in the hopes of just slightly tipping the balance in their favour.

It's a compounding effect, as this negative campaigning also leads to voter apathy.

I like some of the policies of one party, but I like some of the policies of another party. If I select FPTP, will the parties work together?

Most certainly not. As false majorities are the norm, political parties that form governments declare they have the mandate to do as they see fit - that may be to implement a radical platform or to completely abandon the promises they were elected on.

Voters are left to vote "all or nothing" and hope for the best.

I support Party A, but my riding has consistently supported Party B. I feel like my vote is wasted. Is it?

A vote is never truly wasted, but it may seem to you that your vote is unnecessary. This could lead someone to stop voting.

I find I can't support the old line parties anymore. I like a smaller party - if I vote for them, what are the chances my candidate will win?


It's not likely - in fact, it's a practical impossibility.

The FPTP system, by setting the threshold for winning so low, makes it harder for smaller parties to get seats. Under FPTP, even a small party with a sizable portion of the popular vote may not get a seat in the legislature!

Larger parties then use this as evidence to refer to these parties as "fringe" or not representative of electoral wishes.

Wow, it's looking grim. But, if I do support the candidate of my choice and they win, they will bring the needs of the community to the legislature and represent the constituency first, right?

No. If anything, political parties have more power over candidates, making them more responsible to the party brass than the voters of Ontario.

All candidates will want to maintain high standing within the party - toeing the line to ensure they are not booted from caucus or removed as a candidate. This is over and above the party support and finance that a candidate needs to get elected at the riding level.

Up next, a summary.

[The Truth About FPTP]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Compare and Contrast Leaders on Accountability

Thanks to Jason Cherniak, I wouldn't have seen this.

One of the things that has bothered me to no end about Dalton McGuinty and his performance as Premier is his propensity to blame others for his policy decisions.
Bold promises, bold dreams, followed by an "aw, shucks it's not our fault we can't deliver" press conference with a startling attack on something or somebody else. It's either Mike Harris, Bob Rae, Paul Martin, or Stephen Harper - it's either the fiscal imbalance or the strong Canadian dollar.

It's an indisputable fact. Even in his "mea culpa" on the coal-fired plant broken promise, where he was clearly to blame, he first blamed his advisers.

Well, let me just say, that I am completely impressed by what John Tory, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party has said [Canoe, Tory will take the fall if policies fail]:

John Tory says the buck stops at the top, and he will take full responsibility if his party goes down to defeat Oct. 10 over his policy on funding for religious schools.

"I have had lots of leadership positions and you know that that's where the buck stops and you have to accept accountability," Tory said at a campaign stop at London's Covent Garden Market, when asked if he'd personally be accountable for the policy.

He's not blaming anybody else for the campaign.

That's the mark of a real leader.

Hugh Segal : A Conservative for MMP

I am a supporter of the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system and I will be voting "Yes" on October 10th.

To more actively support this, I've decided that I will contribute some time to convincing conservatives (big 'C' and small 'c' alike) of the merits in supporting the referendum. To this end, I've created a separate blog called Conservatives for MMP.

It seemed fitting to announce that today.

At the Economic Club of Toronto, Senator Hugh Segal (Kingston-Frontenac-Leeds) delivered a speech whole-heartedly endorsing Mixed Member Proportional:
The next Ontario election will allow Ontarians to do as they have always done, choose their local MPP. The party who ends up with the largest numbers of MPPs is most likely to form a government. I, without being partisan here today, will be voting for Mr. Tory and the Conservatives – because Ontario cannot muddle through with mediocre leadership that costs us jobs, excess taxes, quality healthcare and reduced investment. Others here will vote Liberal or Green or NDP for their own valid reasons. That is your right – and I defend it absolutely. But out partisan choices is not why I am here.

This election, the referendum ballot we will get on election day also offers voters the opportunity to significantly modify the way future governments will be selected – the opportunity to deliver real fairness to a system that currently and effectively discards a great percentage of votes cast under the present system. As it stands today, unless a voter happens to cast his or her ballot for the candidate of the winning party in their riding, their vote is in point of fact lost. It counts for zero. In the current system, results are rarely proportional - a party’s share of seats in the legislature rarely corresponds to its share of the popular vote. This distortion causes some parties to receive more than their share of seats, while other ones receive less than their share, if at all. This detracts from the fairness and legitimacy of Ontario’s electoral system. Seldom has a majority government in Ontario been elected with a majority of voter support – this has not happened since 1937. The most glaring example of inequity occurred in September of 1990 when the New Democratic Party rose to power in Ontario, much to the surprise of everyone - including the New Democratic Party, with 37.6% of all ballots cast. They went from 19 to 74 seats – a 279% gain. And this was in an election with a 64% voter turnout. So in effect, 37% of 64% - which equals 24% of the slightly more than the 4 million people who voted, about 1 million electors - imposed an NDP majority government in Ontario – something for which some might say we are still paying!

...

The Citizens’ Assembly was independent of government and made up of 103 randomly-selected citizens – one from each of Ontario's electoral districts. With the Chair, 52 of the members were male and 52 were female and at least one member was Aboriginal. Members of the Assembly were selected at random by Elections Ontario from the Permanent Register of Electors for Ontario and every registered voter was eligible to participate, with the exception of elected officials. Their process was open and honest. All views were canvassed. Their recommendation was well reasoned and, largely keeps in place the geographic district representative process we have always had. The Assembly members examined Ontario’s electoral system – the system that structures how votes are combined to elect the Members of Provincial Parliament. In a nutshell, the final recommendation of the Assembly is to institute a Mixed Member Proportional system for Ontario – voters would get two votes at election time – one for their preferred local MPP and one for their preferred governing party. The result would actually reflect how people voted.

I will be cross-posting all my postings in support of MMP to this new blog, Conservatives for MMP.

If you would like to help me out, drop me a line at progressive.right@gmail.com - I will list your blog, your endorsement, and any postings you'd like to share.

Conservatives stand to gain under Mixed Member Proportional and I truly believe the move to this electoral system is the right one.

Time to Close Up Shop, Folks

From the Ottawa Citizen, Web wars put an edge on old-time politics:
The Internet's ability to enable rapid-fire repartée between campaigns can have a downside, depending on how idealistic you are about politics.

The need for similar hype amidst millions of websites, combined with the ease of production, might encourage Internet ads to take a decidedly edgier, more negative tone.

"It doesn't advance the cause of democracy or inform voters," said Robert MacDermid, a York University political scientist who thinks Internet politics benefit the media more than average citizens. "Most voters don't come home at night and look a Liberal party website or blogs. It's still a tiny percentage of people."

Emphasis mine.

Mr. MacDermid didn't really say anything earth-shattering.

If you have a population that's largely apathetic towards politics - regardless of how passionate we (the blogger) may feel about a particular issue - it only stands to reason that they are not going to seek out pockets of political information from blogs and political party websites. Why would they?

Updated: Added a slight clarification.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

YWCA Canada Endorses MMP

This is good news for electoral reform.

YWCA Canada urges Ontarians to choose proportional representation in referendum

Canada's largest multi-service women's organization urges Ontarians to choose proportional representation in upcoming electoral reform referendum. Leader says a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system will help more equitable representation of women in provincial legislature.

Ontario voters go to the polls a month from today to choose a new provincial government. When they cast their ballots on October the 10th, they will also be asked whether they want to keep the current electoral process or adopt a Mixed Member Proportional system.

YWCA Canada is partnering with Equal Voice (an organization dedicated to increasing the number of women politicians) to support the MMP system. Under this new system, 90 of the seats in the Legislature would be elected in ridings as is currently the case, while an additional 39 would be elected by Proportional Representation (PR).

[H/T, Liberals for MMP]

Where is Dalton?

If I am Dalton McGuinty, I'm now starting to plan a whirlwind local media tour through the Durham Region. It seems a silly political strategy to avoid one of the key battlegrounds in this election.

Where is Dalton?
Like the elusive Waldo, [Liberal leader] Dalton [McGuinty] appears to be playing his best game of hide-and-seek. Despite requests from the Metroland Durham Region Media Group to sit down with us and talk shop, the Premier's team made it pretty clear he wasn't interested in visiting Durham.

John Tory, Howard Hampton, and Frank de Jong have all been interviewed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

An Epilogue to my Meltdown

If John Tory loses this election it's simply because of the dominance of the faith-based schools issue and his faux pas in mentioning creationism in the same sentence as evolution.

John has fallen into the same "trap" that has befallen other Tory leaders - he's trying to please everyone in the PC partisan camp. Someone, somewhere has said to Mr. Tory - "Hey, John. Guess what would be a great idea to campaign on? Funding faith-based public schools. You'll keep the support of the soft social conservative vote who think you're a Liberal."

What inevitably happens, though, when you run on a policy that isolates those of us who are just slightly right-of-centre, we run away. We either vote Liberal, or we stay home. We like the rest of the platform, but it's that one policy that bugs us.

Some have argued that it would be better for the Tories to stick to a "pure" fiscal conservative/social conservative model. Somebody else tried that too. Stephen Harper has done just fine without us Red Tories. He's enjoying accolades the country over, a huge lead in the polls, and will no doubt go down in history as the single greatest Prime Minister ever. At least, that was the plan, when he ditched us for his "principle over pragmatism" world tour.

I like John. I supported him for leader, and still do. Truth be told, the Progressive Conservatives are my only political home right now and they are the only chance of defeating the Liberal Party.

There is no question in my mind, that it is fair to fund all faith-based schools or fund none. There are only two parties promising fairness; the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and the Green Party of Ontario (although, I am surprised the NDP haven't picked this up).

The curriculum of those faith-based schools will be determined by the Ministry of Education.

The depth and breadth of those faith-based schools will be determined by the Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission.

These schools may hold religion classes to talk about all kinds of religious type stuff that I don't believe in.

Those are the facts.

In other words, I reject your reality and substitute my own! :)

Updated: Fixed a typo.

Calmer Head (Somewhat)

While I am entirely responsible for the fuel, the rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

:-)

Back later with an epilogue of sorts.

Hugh Segal : Repairing the Infrastructure of Democracy Before It Collapses

On September 12, Senator Hugh Segal will discuss electoral reform at the Economic Club of Toronto.

Repairing the Infrastructure of Democracy Before It Collapses

The National Club
303 Bay Street [map]
11:45 am - 1:30 pm

Lunch will be served.
  • $69 (+ 4.14 GST) for non-members
  • $59 (+ 3.54 GST) for Economic Club members
  • $690 (+ 41.40 GST) for tables of 10

To register by telephone, please call 416-306-0899.

Our present voting system diminishes the value of millions of votes, and threatens the legitimacy of our democratic system and the economic stability it underwrites. Proportional representation, however, would allow voters to choose both their local MPP and provincial government, and in doing so would modernize the electoral system in ways that will promote stability and broaden participation.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

See You on October 11

Sorry, John - you lost me when you said:
"It's still called the theory of evolution," [John] Tory said. "They teach evolution in the Ontario curriculum, but they also could teach the fact to the children that there are other theories that people have out there that are part of some Christian beliefs."

That's not what I signed up for.

It's called the theory of evolution because that's what you call a logical or mathematical explanation in science - a theory - not because it's an opinion or a best guess. A scientific theory can be proven via experiment or disproven via evidence.

That's why evolution belongs in science class, along with gravity and relativity - similar scientific theories.

Calmer heads may prevail, but at this point - I'm done.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Only Because I Like Math, Education Edition

The Ontario Progressive Conservative plan to increase funding in education, including a budget for additional publicly funded faith-based schools represents a net increase in public education funding.

Here's my quick and dirty math I used.

The assumptions I used:

  • Total enrollment in Ontario schools is 2.2 million; 650,000 are enrolled in Catholic schools.
  • The budgeted spend on public education is $17.2 billion.
  • The Liberals are proposing an additional $963 million in education spending.
  • The Progressive Conservatives are proposing an additional $2.44 billion in education spending. This includes the commitment for the $963 million proposed by the Liberals and the $400 million budgeted for additional faith based public school funding.
  • The expected maximum influx of new public education students will be 53,000.

Now, for the math.

Under the Liberal plan, using the budgeted $17.2 billion and the proposed increase of $983 million - that brings the total investment into education to $18.1 billion. Simple proportioning means that $12.6 billion will be spent on non-Catholic public education, and the remaining $5.6 billion into Catholic education.

Using the Progressive Conservative spending increase, a total of $19.6B will be spent on public education ($17.2B + $2.44B). Using the same quick proportioning, the Catholic school system would receive $5.9B, the non-Catholic school system would receive $13.3B, and the 53,000 new students in the public system would receive $479 million (which falls within the $400 estimated by the PC's and within the $500 million estimated by the Liberals - so the quick and dirty math kind of works).

The conclusion, however, from all this math is that under the Liberals, non-religious public education spending will increase by only 5.6% (from $11.9B to $12.6B), whereas under the PC's, non-religion public education will increase by 11.4% (from $11.9B to $13.3B).

Under the PC plan, the government commits more to non-religious public education than the current Liberal plan does.

Now, you may argue the math is too quick - it still illustrates a point, however. All of the arguments against extending funding has been predicated on the mistaken belief that the additional $400-$500 million would come from the existing public education budget.

That is simply not true.

Additionally, arguing that that $400-$500 million should "stay" in public education is also misleading, because that $400-500 million isn't even there unless you elect a PC government.

As a post script, I'm still not supportive of funding public faith-based schools. My preference is to have one public school system. As I've also said in the same piece, there is not a government in Ontario that is going to stop funding Roman Catholic separate schools. The reality is there is simply no option to eliminate faith-based education in Ontario.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Little Bits - September 4, 2007

I'm not ready to get right back into blogging just yet. Everybody should take a vacation.

  1. Ontario PC leader John Tory remarks, "The gap between New Year's Day and Easter is a long gap, and I'm all for families having a day to be together and so on. I would only ask this question: Why did Mr. McGuinty wait until now to do this? He's had four years, if he thought this was a good idea ... why now?"

    Because he can't ban photo radar for a third time?

  2. "The [Liberal] government itself has a position that is logically incoherent [on faith-based school funding]". Of course the Liberal Party's position is logically incoherent. They're attempting to argue against faith-based funding in public education while actually supporting the status quo on faith-based funding in public education.

    You can't argue so vehemently against something (going so far as to suggest it is segregation) and not have those same arguments thrown against maintaining the status quo.

    It seems, finally, that people are beginning to realize that the Ontario Liberals do not hold the opposing view on faith-based public education after all.

  3. John Tory has apologized for a comment he made about the University of Ottawa. That was the right thing to do.

Monday, August 13, 2007

See You in September

I'm going to take a break from blogging for the next few weeks. I should be back in full spin mode some time after Labour Day.

I will be putting comment moderation on later tonight, so get your comments in.

Updated: Moderation is on.

Dalton McGuinty Will Raise Taxes

I've come to the conclusion that Dalton McGuinty will raise our taxes, if he's re-elected on October 10, 2007. This goes beyond simply arguing that Mr. McGuinty has problems keeping his election commitments (although, that does help).

This thought of mine has been on my mind for some time now:

Mr. McGuinty indicated that his new government was unaware of the financial health of the province and that money due for needed services was unavailable. So, he broke his promise not to raise taxes to address the "social deficit".

Well, now, presumably, he is aware of the financial health of the province, as his ongoing struggle over the fiscal imbalance seems to indicate.

And, that fight has not ended.

Dalton McGuinty, while able to find money for autism lawsuits, pitbull bans, and cricket clubs, still cannot find money to fix the so-called social deficit which he promised to fix in 2003. This was his justification for raising our taxes with the so called "health premium" in his first budget.

Dalton McGuinty is publicly attacking the federal Conservatives over what he sees as unfair treatment under employment insurance. It's obviously a transparent attempt to show the province that Mr. McGuinty is trying to "do something" in light of Ontario's sagging economy. It will accomplish little, if anything, before the election. Superficially, it will keep a certain high profile supporter of Mr. McGuinty on side.

Add to this the number of times the federal government shows up in Ontario Liberal election promises - most notably in their transit promise (where the federal government is to provide a third of the cost).

Add to this the fight on the municipal front from Toronto and Ottawa for more funding for infrastructure, social services and transit. The Premier has told municipalities that there is no money, and that, especially with Toronto, to "grow up and raise taxes".

By being in a constant state of conflict with both municipalities and the federal government, Mr. McGuinty is likely setting us up so that he can do what he does best: blame someone else for his policy (in)decisions.

It's a common theme with the Ontario Liberal Party. Any time they are unable or unwilling to deliver on one of their campaign or project announcements it is because of everybody and everything else, except Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberal Party.

This is why I believe that Dalton McGuinty has a "social deficit premium" in the wings for the next budget, should he form government.

There is a very simple way to relieve Mr. McGuinty of the pressure to set us up this way; simply do not elect Ontario Liberals in October.

MMP : What 90 Local Ridings Would Look Like

Greg Morrow, from democraticSPACE, gives us a glimpse at what 90 local ridings would look like under the proposed Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.

[H/T, They Call Me "Mr. Sinister"]

Updated: Removed Greg's commentary from this post (you can, of course, still read it at his site). It should be noted that I think the maps are valuable from the point of view of displaying how the 90 local ridings could be distributed.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - False Majorities

Wikipedia defines representative democracy thusly:
Representative democracy involves the selection of government officials by a majority of votes by the people being represented. Representatives may be elected by a particular district (or constituency), or represent the entire electorate proportionally proportional systems, with some using a combination of the two. Some representative democracies also incorporate elements of direct democracy, such as referendums. A characteristic of representative democracy is that while the representatives are elected by the people, to act in their interest, they retain the freedom to exercise their own judgment as how best to do so.

Keep that definition in mind as we progress.

I've heard that one of the strengths of FPTP is that, in most cases, governments elected in this system are majority governments. Is that true?

Well, that is true. But, it's called a false majority.

A false majority is when representatives of one political party form a clear majority in the legislature, but were elected with a minority of the popular vote.

Surely though, it's rare for a political party to win a minority of the votes but to take a majority of the legislature. Right?

That's not right. In fact, that's the most common result in FPTP. It is rare for a political party to actually obtain a majority of the popular vote. Even advocates for the FPTP system acknowledge this.

For historical purposes, the last time an Ontario election resulted in a political party forming government receiving a majority of the votes was in 1937, when a coalition of the Liberals and Liberal-Progressives took 51.6% of the popular vote. They took 65 of 90 seats (72%).

But, FPTP just says that a party has to take the most votes to form government. So, FPTP always ensures that the party with the most votes forms government. Is that true?

That is most certainly not true.

  • In the 1998 Quebec general election, the separatist Parti Québécois took 42.87% of the popular vote compared to the Liberal Party which took 43.55%. Yet, the PQ formed a majority with 76 of the 125 seats.
  • In the 2006 New Brunswick general election, the Liberal Party took 47.1% of the popular vote compared to the Progressive Conservative Party which took 47.5%. Yet, the Liberals formed a majority with 29 of the 55 seats.
In short, FPTP cannot even guarantee that the party that forms government actually has achieved a plurality of the votes!

FPTP could be called "Second Place Forms Government Sometimes, Too".

Isn't it undemocratic to have a minority of the population electing a majority of the legislature?

It most certainly is, but supporters of FPTP will tell you this is the most desirable form of government.

Up next, politics as usual.

Note: My apologies if this is a duplicate. Once again, I'm having posting issues.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Little Bits - August 9, 2007

Because a man cannot blog on electoral reform alone.

  1. In all the craziness around Mike Colle and the questions of accountability surrounding the distribution of capital grants by the Ontario Liberals, some of us have let the issues involving the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation kind of slide. I'm glad to see that John Tory is bringing this back to the forefront.

    It seems OLG has been settling some cases with problem gamblers and the OLG out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. Ring a bell?

  2. A riding's returning officer must be non-partisan. I'm not necessarily sure that the executive assistant of the spouse of an opponent constitutes being partisan, but the position should be beyond even a whiff of conflict

  3. Did anybody hear that the Ontario Liberal riding association in Parry Sound-Muskoka was having problems nominating a candidate? Apparently, it was Dalton McGuinty's fault.
    The Liberals are the last party in Parry Sound-Muskoka to select a candidate for the provincial election. The delay reportedly stems from the dissolution of the party’s provincial riding association in 2004, following the McGuinty government’s decision to remove Parry Sound-Muskoka’s northern Ontario designation.

    The move, which eliminated the riding’s ability to gain access to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, angered a number of party members, who later resigned from the association’s executive.

Addendum - The Truth About FPTP : How Political Parties Choose Candidates

This is an addendum to Part 3 of my Series, The Truth About FPTP : How Political Parties Choose Candidates.

How many political parties in Ontario use FPTP to select leaders?

Neither the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the Ontario Liberals, nor the Ontario NDP uses FPTP to select leaders. That is, of course, unless the candidate is acclaimed.

How many political parties use FPTP to select candidates?

Neither the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the Ontario Liberals, nor the Ontario NDP uses FPTP to select candidates. That is, of course, unless the leader selects the candidate or the candidate is acclaimed.

Why would partisan activists of political parties then support FPTP if political parties themselves do not use FPTP?

That's for another debate, but it certainly does indicate that even the political parties themselves understand that FPTP is not the best method for electing officials.

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - How Political Parties Choose Candidates

I heard that the people who get chosen to run in a political riding under FPTP would be named from a list of supporters of political parties. Is that true?

That is correct. Only party members may run as a candidate for a political party under FPTP.

So who gets to determine the makeup of the political candidates?

The political parties are solely responsible for the composition of the party candidates under FPTP. They can either be determined by direct orders by the party leadership, or they might be determined by a vote by party members.

No matter what, the candidates for election will be in the hands of members of political parties, who make up a tiny part of the population of Ontario.

Non-aligned voters do not get a say at all.

If I do not like the candidate representing the party that I want to vote for, can I alter the name so I can put the name of my preferred candidate in when it comes time to vote?

No, you cannot. FPTP only allows for closed party candidate selection. This means that voters cannot cross off names or change the candidate's name in the ballot box. The only choice given to the voters under FPTP is to vote for the candidate chosen by the political party.

Your preferred candidate may run as an independent, but they are unlikely to win under FPTP.

But, under FPTP, I can still support the political party, by voting for the party but not the candidate, correct?

No, that is not correct. If you want to support the political party, you must vote for the candidate you do not support.

Wait. I will have to vote for someone I may not want to represent me? Isn't that undemocratic?

Yes. You cannot support your political party and not support their preferred candidate. Similarly, you cannot support your local candidate and not support their political party.

You must choose between selecting a political party you do not support, a candidate you do not support, or spoiling your ballot. Those are your only choices.

That is undemocratic.

Isn't giving political parties total control over selecting the candidate undemocratic?

It is important to be highly regarded within the party to be selected or chosen as a candidate. It helps if the candidate is also well known in the community, but this is not always the case.

If a candidate is highly regarded by the party but not well known in the community, he or she may be parachuted into a riding, most likely into a riding that's called a "safe seat" - one where support runs high for the party, regardless of candidate. The candidate will likely have no ties to the community - neither personal nor professional. He or she is then pretty much guaranteed a seat in the legislature, regardless of how well the party does in an election.

So if you want to vote for a party but do not like whom they have running in your riding, you are pretty much stuck. Not only is this undemocratic, it is also unfair.

If I don't like a candidate running in another riding, how can I make sure that he or she does not get into office?

You could move to that riding, and vote in their election. For most of us, that's simply not possible. Once you have moved, you'd also have to convince the rest of the riding not to support that candidate - and if you don't have a lot of ties in the community, it may be all but impossible.
Update: Fixed a typo.

Update x 2: I've added an addendum.

Up next, false majorities.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dalton McGuinty Gets Funnier Everyday

Am I the only one to find it utterly laughable for Dalton McGuinty to ask Ottawa for money two weeks almost to the date from him telling the city of Toronto to grow up and raise taxes?

I can't figure out if he's doing this on purpose or not. Like we're all on Candid Camera and he's going to point to a camera and say, "Gotcha!"

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - Representation

Does FPTP give us better representation than MMP?

The answer is no, of course not.

Right now, Ontarians, compared to citizens in other provinces, are already the most poorly represented citizens in Canada. In our current legislature, there are 103 Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP). Under FPTP, on average, there is one 1 MPP for every 118,061 citizens based upon the 2006 Census data (Ontario population, 12,160,282).

Under the MMP model proposed by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, the total number of members would rise to 129, thereby meaning 1 member for every 94,266 Ontarians.

But, doesn't that just mean there is less direct representation?

No, that's not true either.

Under the current model, an Ontarian is represented directly by their local MPP, and indirectly by the Premier and the Cabinet. For example, if a citizen has an issue with education, they are free to contact their local MPP, the Minister of Education, or the Premier with their concerns.

Under the new model, an Ontarian is represented directly by their local MPP, directly by thirty-nine other Ontario-wide MPP's, and still indirectly by the Premier and the Cabinet. In this example, if a citizen has an issue with education say, they can contact their local MPP, or one of the other thirty-nine Ontario-wide MPP's, the Minister of Education, or the Premier with their concerns. In this way, Ontarians are represented directly by 40 Members plus the Premier and his or her Cabinet. Remember, those 39 Ontario-wide MPP's are relying on your vote just as much as your local candidate (more so, in fact).

Wait. How can a list candidate be relying on my vote more than my local candidate?

If a local candidate is removed from caucus, they can still run in a local riding as an independent. Name recognition for the local candidate will run high, if he was a high performing candidate, such as a Chuck Cadman, or a maverick non-conformer, like a Garth Turner. However, the list candidate does not have a local riding to fall back on if they are removed from caucus.

This means, if the list MPP is removed from caucus, and if they want to run again in the next election, they will need to find a local riding - which means, they will have to represent you to get your vote, in that riding. Or, at the very least, bring that name recognition to the local riding. That's no different under FPTP.

I'll get into the list candidates, in another post. I'll come back, and link to that post from here.

Fine. But, isn't more politicians a bad thing?

More politicians are a bad thing, if they do not represent anything. As it would stand under the proposal, there would be 1 Member of Provincial Parliament for about every 95,000 Ontarians, with the total number of MPP's being 129.

By comparison, some other ratios are:

  • Quebec has 1 Member for every 60,369 citizens (125 seats in the National Assembly; based on a population of 7,546,131).
  • Alberta has 1 Member for every 39,643 citizens (83; population of 3,290,350)
  • Manitoba has 1 Member for every 20,147 citizens (57; population of 1,148,401)
  • PEI has 1 Member for every 5,031 citizens (27; population of 135,851)
  • Nunavut has 1 Member for every 1,551 citizens (19; population of 29,474)

So, Ontario is largely the true conservative bastion when it comes to the number of politicians (federally, they are a little more "conservative" in their representation) and will remain the conservative bastion it is, under MMP.

Up next, how political parties choose candidates under FPTP.

[The Truth About FPTP]

The Truth About FPTP

This is the summary page for my series on The Truth About First Past the Post, or FPTP. I will update this as I add more pages to it.

On October 10, Ontarians will be voting in a referendum on electoral reform. Ontarians will be asked to choose between our existing electoral system, First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) and the one recommended by the Ontario Citizens' Assembly, Mixed Member Proportional (MMP).

  1. The Truth About FPTP - What is It?
  2. The Truth About FPTP - Representation
  3. The Truth About FPTP - How Political Parties Choose their Candidates (Addendum)
  4. The Truth About FPTP - False Majorities
  5. The Truth About FPTP - Politics as Usual
  6. The Truth About FPTP - Summary

Updated: I've linked to this post from the individual posts.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Imagine George Bush Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

The Auditor General's Report - The Road From Here

This is the third part of my look at the Auditor General's Report into the Year-end Grants Provided by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration [PDF]. You can find the preamble here and the review here.

Once again, I remind you of a famous quote - the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. We've already looked at the past behaviour and could simply draw our conclusions from there. But, let's look at the reactions to the report and the subsequent actions taken by the Ontario Liberals.

First, the Minister at the heart of the scandal, Mike Colle, resigned. Interesting to note though is Ian Urquhart's take.

But [Mike] Colle was not a rogue minister, and he didn't find the money for the grants in the men's room of his ministry. It was given to him to distribute by the minister of finance, and [Premier Dalton] McGuinty himself participated in at least one of the ceremonies in which the cheque was presented.

Colle, then, is really a scapegoat, as Conservative Leader John Tory suggested. But he is also a team player, and he said in a statement yesterday that he was leaving cabinet lest his continued presence were to distract attention from "all the good work we are doing."

Whether his departure has the desired effect of getting the issue off the political agenda remains to be seen.

It is clear to everyone that this was not confined to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. The Minister resigning is not sufficient.

Secondly, one of the interesting strategies put forward by the Liberals was to go on a hunt to determine whether the money should be paid back. It's interesting because it's completely transparent as a wild goose chase meant simply to deceive Ontarians that this government cares about accountability [Toronto Star, Tory keeping pressure on Liberals over grants.

Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips has assumed [Mike] Colle's duties. McGuinty said Phillips will look at the fine print on the grants to see if the government can recover any of the money.

"I'm not going to prejudge that," the premier told reporters. "I'm waiting for the minister to get back to me with his advice."

"Fine print". What fine print? In order for there to be fine print, there has to be print.

That money went out the door with no application and no agreement for how it was to be used. What is supposed to occur when Minister Gerry Phillips goes knocking on doors to ask for the money back? I know [Globe & Mail, Cricket group's leader rebuffs call to return Ontario grant]:
The head of the Ontario Cricket Association said it should not have to return any of the $1-million grant it received from the Ontario government and, in fact, he plans to ask for more funding.

What it will do, however, is:

  • Reinforce the fact that the Ontario Liberals have no control over the finances of this province.
  • Reinforce the fact that the Ontario Liberals are not accountable to the taxpayers of this province.
  • Reinforce the fact that the Ontario Liberals cannot be trusted to look after those who truly need and require the money for capital grant programs.

It is clear to everyone that the Ontario Liberals are unfit to govern.