Friday, June 29, 2007

Priority Number One

Ontario Liberal Party : "It's about winning. That's all it's about."

Puffery suddenly takes on new meaning.

Whatever it takes to win.

Damn the torpedoes, and all.

Yay, for your Ontario Liberals.

[H/T, Wudrick Blog]

Back that Tractor Up

Previously, when it was discovered that urban dwellers receive less services for tax dollars than rural regions, I said:

I don't mind this because I don't think it's necessarily true that if someone pays X amount in taxes, they necessarily deserve X returned in services. If I never need an emergency room, should I stop paying for it? Of course not.

Tax collected must be spent efficiently and effectively wherever it's needed - in the long run, programs such as public health care, public education, and social services benefit everyone.

There are, however, certain segments of the population who incorrectly believe that Toronto and big cities receive too much in tax benefits and are an unfair tax burden - this dispels this myth.

It still holds true for me that services delivered elsewhere benefit everyone. In addition, the statistics clearly busted the myth that rural Canada ships its hard-earned tax dollars to the big cities.

Now, to set the stage, another urban / rural myth is busted [CBC, Crime rates higher in small cities: Statistics Canada]:

The overall crime rate in small urban areas — home to at least 1,000 people — was 43 per cent higher than in large urban areas with a core of at least 100,000, indicates the Statistics Canada study of 2005 crime rates that was released Thursday. Only in Quebec were crime rates higher in bigger cities.

[H/T, More Notes From Underground]

Now if you'll allow me to use the reference "certain segments of the population" once again; there are certain segments of the population who incorrectly believe that Toronto and big cities are unsafe and home to too much crime. This immediately dispels this myth.

What's more interesting, however, a lesser person, might for instance say, that small urban and rural areas are in a death spiral and that they need to "give their heads a shake" - clean up their act before they start coming back to us for more of our hard-earned tax dollars.

That would certainly be the case if the flow of taxes and the crime rate statistics were reversed.

Bottom line, crime is everybody's problem and support and help should go where it's needed.

Updated: Fixed the credit to the CBC story.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beautiful Billboards of Great Size, Part 2

As promised in this post, I'll post my thoughts about the Town Hall. You can even play "Where's Jim" in the picture to the right. I am in there.

I grabbed the picture from Garth's post he has up about the Whitby Town Hall. Off the top, I agree entirely with this sentiment:

I am delighted my enthusiasm for Town Halls is spreading. To my mind there is no better way for an MP to interact with people than in a small group, close to their homes, in a frank give-and-take session in which political spin and bullshit are left in the briefcase in the car. Sadly, too few government MPs do this, depriving people of a chance to instruct their elected rep in what it is they expect from them.

The evening got underway with a Garth's presentation on how he ended up in the Liberal caucus, and concluded the presentation by attacking the Conservative Party on abandoning progressive conservative values as well as conservative values in general. I would have liked for him to stay around a bit longer, but that's okay.

Next up was John McCallum. I must say, Mr. McCallum does a pretty good impression of Stephen Harper's impression of John McCallum :-) . It was half way through John McCallum's speech that I realized the tact for this town hall. The Liberals were going to attack the Conservative Party on abandoning progressive conservatism - something that strikes a chord with me, and with probably a lot of people in the town of Whitby. Mr. McCallum spoke on budget ineptitude and poor judgment in taxation. It flowed nicely from Mr. Turner's lead up.

One thing did strike me though, was John McCallum's insistence on "government's keeping promises once elected." That was the best near condemnation of Dalton McGuinty, I've ever heard.

Then Mr. McCallum turned it over to Brent Fullard of the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors (CAITI).

Now, I promised to explain the title of this post. Mr. McCallum when introducing Mr. Fullard indicated that we may have seen the billboards CAITI had put up - those "beautiful billboards of great size~!". I get what you mean, if only slightly awkwardly delivered.

The interesting part of Mr. Fullard's presentation was the notion of "tax leakage as a myth" on income trusts. According to CAITI, there is no tax leakage as taxes are paid by the retirement account investors [PDF]. It was an interesting point.

Derek Lee, the chair, indicated not all of tonight should entirely be about income trusts. With that, John McKay spoke next about student grants and students in his riding.

Turning the comments over to the floor, I half expected comments of the "I @#$%$ Hate Conservatives, I Heart Liberals variety" but that didn't entirely happen (it did in spots, but not the entire evening). The first comment was from a gentleman (I think from Newfoundland) who expressed deep disappointment with governments, both Liberal and Conservative, for attacking Atlantic Canada. Income trusts were heavily discussed as was Afghanistan and the Status of Women.

Now, I held no delusions that this was a non-partisan event. The crowd was decidedly Liberal, or in the least, anti-Conservative (the president of the Whitby-Oshawa Liberal riding association was credited with helping to organize the event).

That said, I did find the presentation was tailored in such a way that it could have been truly held as a non-partisan event - Garth Turner's presentation was humourous and to the point, John McCallum spoke often, seemingly to answer the most questions, and he did so confidently, Maria Minna spoke about the status of women with conviction and she even offered to hold one of the failing microphones to hear a question, Carolyn Bennett also spoke about her trip to Afghanistan. I was most impressed by Ken Dryden, who when answering, answered directly and cut to the chase - I liked that.

To go back to Garth's summation, I did find the evening frank and unscripted and I didn't get the feeling that this was just a Liberal love-in.

For the first time ever, the thought of voting Liberal in the next federal election did cross my mind which is, I guess, the point. You guys just now need to convince me that you really mean it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Beautiful Billboards of Great Size

Tonight, I attended my first Liberal-sponsored event.

It was the Liberal town hall advertised by Garth Turner in Whitby, Ontario - just east of Toronto.

In attendance were Derek Lee, Ken Dryden, Carolyn Bennett, John McCallum, John McKay, Paul Szabo, Maria Minna, and Dan McTeague. Garth Turner started the ball rolling, but he had to leave early for a meeting in Halton. In addition, Brent Fullard of the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors (CAITI) was also on hand.

I'll probably talk a little more tomorrow about my thoughts; I'll even explain the title of this post.

In general, I found the experience positive (much to my surprise). It's entirely different than a Conservative event.

I also found out I really like Ken Dryden.

Garth still rocks, too.

Chris Benoit Post Deleted

In light of recent developments, I deleted the post on Chris Benoit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Open Letter to All Federal Political Party Leaders

To date, I have not been invited to one of these so-called barbecue tours that are apparently all the rage with the grassroots. I am led to believe my voting intentions can be swayed by attending one of these shindigs.

Now, what doesn't count is showing up to another barbecue that I'm invited to or already attending and then shaking my hand. That doesn't count, because I'm already there.

Since I have no horse in any federal race, I want, and am willing to be exposed to, the full-on partisan barbecue experience.

I am willing to be schmoozed.

Sincerely,
Me.

Friday, June 22, 2007

MMP : Only Kick at the Can

Time to cut right to the chase.

The October 10th referendum to determine whether or not Ontario adopts the mixed-member proportional form of government will be the only opportunity for electoral reform in Ontario.

Some people who do not support mixed member proportional but who ostensibly support electoral reform, are going to vote "no" in the referendum thinking that in a few years down the road, there will be another opportunity for electoral reform. Maybe to institute single transferable voting or something else.

Not going to happen.

While I give credit to the Ontario Liberal Party for actually including the question on the October election ballot, I would argue that the majority of Liberals prefer first-past-the-post for the reason that it gives them the best chance to form a majority. That said, I'm also of the opinion that the same holds true for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

The short story is, if we do not achieve those votes to ensure that mixed-member proportional is recommended, there will be no other opportunity for electoral reform in Ontario. Future governments, including the election this fall of a new Progressive Conservative government and way off future Liberal governments alike, will claim the results of this referendum reflect the will of the people, and it likely won't.

Truth be told, if you do want a different style of electoral reform because you do not like mixed-member proportional, you'd have a better shot of achieving that with a mixed-member proportional government.

Electoral Reform Message Not Getting Out

If you're a supporter of mixed-member proportional, you need to start working harder [democraticSPACE.com/blog, Electoral Reform Set to Fail in Ontario]:
Electoral reform would be voted down by Ontarians, if the referendum was held today. That’s the message from a recent Environics poll. But it would be voted down not because of a lack of support, but rather because the vast majority of Ontarians have no idea about the alternative.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Proof Positive that Democracy Just Doesn't Work

Either that, or polling doesn't work [Toronto Star, Liberals see assets fade in new poll]:

More respondents – 37 per cent – thought NDP Leader Jack Layton would be a good prime minister, compared with just 25 per cent who preferred Dion.

When people were asked to name the top environmental party, 67 per cent chose the Green party, 45 per cent chose the NDP, while just 22 per cent said the Liberals were the best on the environment.

Even the old ethics cloud hasn't cleared – New Democrats were seen as honest and ethical by 45 per cent of respondents, while only 24 per cent said they would characterize Liberals that way. Only 28 per cent said the Liberal party had done enough to regain the trust of Canadians after the sponsorship scandal of Jean Chr├ętien's years in power.

Still, and perhaps paradoxically, more people are considering voting Liberal than for the Greens or the NDP, according to the poll.

Those who would definitely or probably vote Liberal total 34 per cent, while only 30 per cent said they would definitely or probably vote NDP. For the Greens, that figure was 25 per cent. The Greens netted only about 5 per cent of the popular vote in the last election.

Emphasis mine.

The only thing I can figure is that Canadians feel that federal politics is some sort of zero-sum game. If you don't vote Conservative, then you must vote Liberal no matter how dishonest you believe them to be, no matter how much you'd prefer a different party in power.

It's almost a good argument itself for electoral reform. It's sad, though.

This is how the poll results will appear to Liberals:

More respondents – 37 per cent – thought NDP Leader Jack Layton would be a good prime minister, compared with just 25 per cent who preferred Dion.

When people were asked to name the top environmental party, 67 per cent chose the Green party, 45 per cent chose the NDP, while just 22 per cent said the Liberals were the best on the environment.

Even the old ethics cloud hasn't cleared – New Democrats were seen as honest and ethical by 45 per cent of respondents, while only 24 per cent said they would characterize Liberals that way. Only 28 per cent said the Liberal party had done enough to regain the trust of Canadians after the sponsorship scandal of Jean Chr├ętien's years in power.

Still, and perhaps paradoxically, more people are considering voting Liberal than for the Greens or the NDP, according to the poll.

Those who would definitely or probably vote Liberal total 34 per cent, while only 30 per cent said they would definitely or probably vote NDP. For the Greens, that figure was 25 per cent. The Greens netted only about 5 per cent of the popular vote in the last election.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here Comes a Leaf Bashing Joke

If Hamilton gets a professional hockey team, then Toronto will want one too.

It's an oldy, but a goody, and guaranteed to make you friends.

Anybody Else Catch This?

I know my inner 13-year old giggled and I apologize for it.

If you subscribe to the Globe & Mail's world news via RSS, you might have caught their article summary about China running out of surnames (click picture for larger view of the summary I got in the Google).

I'm almost certain the reference to "Zhangs" was added as an afterthought.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Festivus Party - Going Global

The Festivus Party is now the most popular choice of the electorate in Mexico [Angus Reid Global Monitor, Many Mexicans Pick No Political Party].
The governing National Action Party (PAN) holds a slight edge in Mexico, according to a poll by Milenio. 26 per cent of respondents say they identify with the conservative PAN the most.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is second with 22 per cent, followed by the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) with nine per cent. More than a third of respondents say they do not identify with any of the country’s main political organizations.

Emphasis mine.

37% will not vote for any of the three main Mexican parties, with 6% saying they're not sure. 43% of Mexican voters are Festivians by default, because that's how this party rolls.

The Festivus Party is a global phenomenon, and I reach out to my fellow Festivians(?) in Mexico.

[Previously, we reported that the Festivus Party is polling at number 2 in Central Nova]

Friday, June 08, 2007

City Dwellers Pay More in Taxes; You're Welcome

I wonder if this will stop the "I hate sending my tax dollars to Toronto" rants [Globe & Mail, City dwellers pay more in taxes than they get back]:

Big-city dwellers are paying far more in taxes than they receive back in government services, but the skew exists mainly because people in urban areas make more money, concludes a new study of Canada's nine largest cities.

...

Taxpayers in Calgary and Toronto fared the worst, according to the paper. Based on averages between 1986 and 2002, Torontonians each paid $1,717 more in taxes every year than they received back in provincial and federal programs and services. For Calgarians, the deficit was $2,253 per capita on average every year. At the other end of the spectrum, Winnipeggers had a per capita surplus of $2,014.

...

Generally, big-city dwellers get far less return on their tax dollar than rural Canadians or small-towners because cities are populated by people who have less need for government services, Prof. Kneebone said. Between 1996 and 2002, the nine biggest cities contained 51 per cent of the population, but created 65 per cent of new jobs.

I don't mind this because I don't think it's necessarily true that if someone pays X amount in taxes, they necessarily deserve X returned in services. If I never need an emergency room, should I stop paying for it? Of course not.

Tax collected must be spent efficiently and effectively wherever it's needed - in the long run, programs such as public health care, public education, and social services benefit everyone.

There are, however, certain segments of the population who incorrectly believe that Toronto and big cities receive too much in tax benefits and are an unfair tax burden - this dispels this myth.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

MMP : List Candidates are Accountable

One of the common critiques against mixed member proportional is that the list candidates are unaccountable. A commenter on Jason Cherniak's blog describes his experience with MMP accountability in New Zealand:
I live in the Otaki riding. Yes, I have a local MP with offices in the towm main towns. But I *also* have another MP (list) from the other major party who also operates offices in these two same towns. Plus I have MPs from other parties who advertise that I can call them, too.

I don't have just one MP. I have several to choose from who want to represent me. Because a the end of the day, they want my vote.

Besides, as Dan from More Notes From Underground puts, how is it better under first-past-the-post?

Interestingly, one of the principle critiques of mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) is that the "list" candidates would be entirely beholden to the party. How does that differ from the state of affairs in the House today? On matters that the parties consider important, MPs are not allowed to vote their conscience as it is. A "list" MP could just as easily be booted and find a home in another party or as an independent. Come election time, s/he could attempt to get on another list or stand as an independent. Same difference.

Strategic Voting Guide - Ontario General Election

Here's a strategic voting guide, if you're uncomfortable with Buzz Hargrove's:

Better yet, vote for mixed member proportional, and you'll never need another strategic voting guide again.

Print this page, and you can take it with you to the voting booth on October 10th.

You'll find that I don't endorse separatists in this guide, either.

Buzz Hargrove Endorses Dalton McGuinty

Yay, for the Ontario Liberals!

This stuff almost writes itself.

I wonder if Dalton is going to have Mr. Election Implosion tour with him? That would be best for everyone.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Only Because I Love Math

Zorpheous asks over at Jeff's place:
So what's yourr take, you think John can cut taxes, increase healthcare spending and balance the books, or are we looking at another bend over and trust me Politican (which really disappoints me, I was holding on to hope with John Tory)

This is in somewhat a rough form as I'm trying to pound it out.

The Progressive Conservatives have indicated they would roll back the health premium over a 4 year period.

The Progressive Conservatives are basing their projections on Toward 2025: Assessing Ontario's Long-Term Outlook.

This is what the Ontario Liberals said in that report:

Total revenue is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.6 per cent over the 2005-06 to 2009-10 period, while annual growth in total spending is projected to average 3.5 per cent over this period.

Actual revenues for 2005-2006 were 84,225 million based upon:

1. higher than expected tax revenues, including higher revenues from personal income tax returns due to stronger-than-forecast wage and salaries growth, higher corporate tax returns and higher revenues from the electricity sector, and

2. the impact of the consolidation of broader public sector organizations - specifically school boards, hospitals and colleges

In short, higher tax revenues from wage and salary growth, corporate taxes and electricity sectors - plus finding efficiencies in the public sector. Remember, they're evil.

So, I will go under the assumption that revenues will increase by 4.6%, and spending will increase by 3.5%. Assume too that it's a straight 1/4 reduction in the health premium over each year.

In 2005-2006, actual revenues were 84,225 (including the 2,600 million health premium) and actual expenditures were 83,939. A difference of 286 million.

  • For 2006-2007, revenues will be 87,330 million, and expenditures will be 86,877 million. A difference of 453 million.

    Here's the math for the first one:

    (84,225 - 2,600) x 4.6% increase + (2,600 x 1/4 decrease)
    = 85,380 + 1,950
    = 87,330

    83,939 x 3.5% increase
    = 86,877
Now, going on:
  • 2007-2008, revenues will be 90,607 (1,300 from health premium) and expenditures will be 89,918. Difference is 690 million.
  • 2008-2009, revenues will be 94,605 (650 from health premium) and expenditures will be 93,065. Difference is 1,001 million.
  • 2009-2010, revenues will be 97,712 (0 from health premium) and expenditures will be 96,322. Difference is 1,391 million.
John Tory has committed to about 2.1 billion additional spend per year over 4 years (8.5 billion total), which incidentally, is only slightly more than what the Liberals figured would be required in the 3.5% increase in spend [Toward 2025: Assessing Ontario's Long Term Outlook]:
Spending on health is projected to grow on average by 5.1 per cent annually during the 2005-06 to 2009-10 period. Spending on education is projected to grow on average by four per cent annually and spending on social services by 3.4 per cent annually.

On health, the Progressive Conservatives are committed to the 5.1% spend to 2010, going up to 5.2% to 2011, and 5.3% to 2012 [Improving Healthcare].

So, can we increase spend and cut the health tax? I think so. If the Liberal projections are incorrect, maybe not. I trust John to make the right decision in that case.

I don't trust Dalton McGuinty to make the right decision.

Now, it's 10:46, and I'm willing to be corrected.

Updated: See? I knew I'd muck it up somehow. I got the years wrong for when the health premium would be reduced. But, I'm saved by the line in the Outlook:
Revenues and expenses are projected to grow at a similar pace over the 2010-11 to 2014-15 period.

I think it's still doable, and if I can alleviate the math-induced headache, I'll take another run.

Updated x 2: Oh, wait. No, I didn't. I think I got it right.

Updated x 3: Fixed a typo.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Fool Me Twice

I didn't check, but I suspect there will be other blog post titles with a similar theme today [Toronto Star, McGuinty promises no tax hikes]:
Premier Dalton McGuinty has said it before but this time, he says, you can believe him.

The Liberals won't raise your taxes, if re-elected in October, McGuinty said yesterday.

He made the same promise four years ago, but then after getting elected, introduced one of the largest tax hikes in provincial history. The health premium, which costs taxpayers up to $900 a year, puts $2.6 billion into provincial coffers.

Now, I'm not going to rail on how we should get it writing, because we know where that got us.

But, what I find interesting is that this is the same Premier who just 3 years ago told us that sometimes governments have to break their promises.

So, it's not just a credibility thing on the whole "not raising taxes" issue - there's a larger issue about this government needing to promise anything at all. Why even go down that road if you acknowledge the possibility that you will break those promises?

If Dalton McGuinty is so sure of his ability to govern and his record stands to prove it, it should not be necessary to promise anything at all. He should stand up and say, "We may raise taxes, we may not. We won't know till the time comes."

The Ontario Liberals could do that with every issue of public policy - no promises, no commitments. For example, "We may delist more OHIP procedures, we may not. We won't know till the time comes."

At least they'd be honest.

If you're wondering, I happen to think he will raise taxes again - he'll just blame the feds (again) - as the attempts to fix the "fiscal imbalance" did heavily favour Quebec.