Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fix It First, Oppose It If Necessary

As we await the first budget deficit in a decade, the country is forced to watch the awkward Liberal dance on how to oppose the government while still passing the stimulus the country so desperately needs. Kady O'Malley had the answer for Mr. Ignatieff on CBC's At Issue panel last week. She argued quite reasonably that given the opposition's majority in the house and therefore on the relevant committees, they have the power to ammend the budget when it goes to comittee between second and third readings. Parliamentary committtees are rarely used for anything other than grandstanding and publishing reports no one reads, but this is a golden opportunity. The Liberals can make changes to the budget so that it will meet Mr. Ignatieff's criteria and avoid the election that nobody wants. Yes, coalition nuts it would be an election. I don't think there's any evidence Mme. Jean would ask the opposition to form a government. If Mr. Harper tries to block the efforts of the committee (my knowledge of parliamentary rules is on the rough side I concede), then Mr. Ignatieff still has the ability to defeat the budget at third reading or introduce a vote of no-confidence to bring down the government. In other words, it would be really nice with thousands of Canadians desperate for work it would be really nice for parliamentarians to do their jobs. Enough partisan grandstanding. Let's get a budget that will help Canadians.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Do the NDP Have A Rae Problem?

I put a question mark here because this is based on out of writ polling which is notoriously unreliable and not worth the paper it's printed on. Worse, his analysis is also based on internals from out of writ polls which just have almost no validity. However, two polls now show the NDP well below 15% in Ontario. The Angus Reid poll dated January 17th shows Ontario as follows:

Tories: 42
Grits: 40
NDP: 12
Green: 5

The Ekos poll dated January 21st shows Ontario:

Tories: 38.8
Grits: 40.9
NDP: 10.5
Green: 9.7

Now, between the two polls the sample gets larger, so we start to be able to take this seriously. To give you an idea, the NDP got over 18% in Ontario last time out and over 19% in Ontario in 2006. That's a 33% drop at minimum if these number are correct. That's a game changer electorally. It's not a game changer necessarily because the NDP shed strong seats (although Olivia Chow can't be pleased), but because it makes the Liberals more likely to win some of those tight ridings they lost to the Tories in the last election. One of the reasons I take this seriously, aside from personal satisfaction, is that Ontarians take a not so favourable view of the NDP's ability to manage an economy in recession dating back to the Rae government of the early 90's. It would make some sense, that Ontarians would be less and less comfortable electing NDPers as the economy sags. The Ekos poll is bad for the NDP everywhere, the Angus Reid poll shows some strength out west where NDP governments are more common. Once again just something I've picked up on, I'm not saying it will carry into a future election. I mean the Ekos poll shows the Greens being strongest in Quebec where they've been traditionally very weak. Huge bowl full of salt on this one.

Sen. Gillibrand

I'm not overly surprised that Gov. David Patterson (D-NY) went a little off the board with his appointment to the senate. Formerly Congresswomen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is a proven campaigner, defeating an incumbent congressmen is never easy even if it is beating a Republican in New York in 2006. She will likely face a primary challenge in 2010. How strong that primary challenge may depend on her ability to seem like a tougher fight than the man who appointed her. The man to watch is apparently New York AG Andrew Cuomo. However, Cuomo will have to make up his mind as to whether he wants to try to be governor or senator. Frankly, junior senators are not all that powerful in the senate. If they have a profile like Secy. Clinton or Pres. Obama did when they were in the senate, it can be useful as a stepping stone. However, for relative unknown Gillibrand, her appointment may be the last you hear from her until 2010 unless you're watching a lot of C-SPAN. There was speculation before Clinton's appointment to Foggy Bottom that she might have been mulling a run at the governor's mansion precisely because she had no interest in waiting for New York's senior senator, the relatively youthful and powerful Chuck Shumer, to retire before she could get real power in the senate. The choice of Gillibrand should eliminate any charges of sexism against Kennedy. Gillibrand is clearly more qualified for the job than Kennedy, despite her low profile. It will also be nice to have someone not eligible for social security in the senate (Gillibrand's only 42). Gillibrand's appointment does open up a seat in congress in a red part (Cook says R+3) of New York. This is the kind of special election - winnable district in the northeast - the GOP is going to have to win if they're going to stage a comeback in the near future. Republicans hold no seats in the house north of New York state and have been reduced to just three seats in New York. Just like it was panic time when Democrats were getting swept out of Senate seats in the south a few years back, the big blue swath that is New England will need to change if the GOP wants to be a national party again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can The Budget Be Defeated?

I'm not sure. I have to agree with my leader (interim) about tax cuts being fundamentally an unwise approach to stimulating the economy. However, I assume that even Harper, Flaherty et al. will be including something other than tax cuts in the budget. There will be money for infrastructure both desperately needed to bolster our sinking economy and start to fix our infrastructure deficit in this country. So, the question becomes can the opposition parties, in particular the Liberal Party of Canada, justify defeating the budget even if a good chunk of the so-called stimulus package is tax cuts? I don't know. I think it may be difficult. Frankly, I don't want an election and that would guide my decision making as much as the nitty-gritty of the budget.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Obama Victory Analysis: Pre-Inauguration Edition Part 2

It became clear in last winter in South Carolina that African-Americans were going to support Barack Obama in ways that they hadn't supported previous candidates. So, how did this support manifest itself on election day? Let's see how African-Americans helped elect the first African-American president. Let's start in one of Obama's more impressive victories, Virginia. A lot was made of the new residents of Northern Virginia or "fake" Virginia in Republican parlance. However, Obama's appeal to African-Americans helped him win in "real" Virginia as well. Especially, in its capital of Richmond. Like last time 2004, 2008 results followed by increase in voter turnout.

Year Democrat Republican
2004 52,167 21,637
2008 73,180 18,472

County Increase in Democratic Turnout: 40.28%
Statewide Increase in Democratic Vote: 34.61%

It is impressive that even in Richmond, which is not growing like Northern Virgnia, Obama exceeded his statewide increases in support. Twenty thousand new voters in a city which is 57% Black is, in all likelihood, largely attributable to increases in African-American turnout. Richmond was not the only city to see a spike in turnout. Many analysts argue that the race was over when John McCain decided to pull out of Michigan. Michigan is a fairly reliably Democratic state. However, in recent years Republicans have been competitive enough to draw Democratic resources to the state. Bush lost by only 4 points in 2004 for instance. Wayne county, which is principally the city of Detroit, is a major reason that John McCain decided he couldn't compete in the state. Here's the tale of the tape:

Year Democrat Republican
2004 600,047 257,700
2008 656,303 216,880

County Increase in Democratic Turnout: 9.37%
Statewide Increase in Democratic Vote: 15.6%

Here the numbers may not seem all that impressive. However, the margin in Wayne County is key to Democratic victory in Michigan. In 2004, Bush won the rest of the state. While Obama did better outside of Detroit, there was no way McCain was going to make up a 440,000 vote deficit in Detroit. As soon as McCain's people figured out that Detroiters were going to show up, they walked. Wayne County is 42% African-American. If McCain could have kept Obama on the defensive in states like Michigan, Obama would have had to give up on states like Indiana and North Carolina. African-American turnout in Wayne County, MI and elsewhere made it possible for Obama to keep on the offensive red states.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama Victory Analysis: Pre-Inauguration Edition Part 1

With the inauguration around the corner, I figured now was about as good a time as any to look at how Barack Obama got the job he will take over on Tuesday. After the election I posted on how he picked up electoral college votes everywhere. I know want to talk about how that happened. I'm going to look at how three voting blocks put Obama over the top: young voters, Blacks, and Latinos. I'll look at the youth vote in this post.

A lot of pundits were skeptical of Obama's ability to actually get young voters to the polls, however, the evidence is fairly clear. He did it. Let's look at some key counties in some key states, starting with Alachua County, Florida home of the University of Florida. Alachua is a great county to look at because it is in essence a college county dominated by the college town of Gainesville. Here are the results for 2004 and 2008 side by side followed by the increase in Democratic support from 2004 in the couny and in the state as a whole:

2004 62,504 47,762
2008 73,134 47,025

County Increase in Democratic support: 17.01%
Statewide Increase in Democratic Support: 15.63%

What is interesting is that the Republican doesn't go down. It remains flat. What Obama did was find 10,500 new Democratic voters. Given the fact that 18-24 year olds make up almost a quarter of Alachua County's population (a higher percentage of its voting population), we can safely assume that most of this increase is from students. Given the massive turnout efforts in other parts of the state, the fact that Alachua County outperformed the state, is impressive. If we look at Johnson County, Iowa home of the University of Iowa, we can discount the idea of African-Americans accounting for the difference Alachua. Same comparison:

2004 41,847 22,715
2008 50,708 20,639

County Increase in Democratic support: 21.17%
Statewide Increase in Democratic Support: 10.29%

While there is a slightly larger drop in Republican support, the increase in Democratic numbers is still impressive, in this University dominated county which is only 2.9% Black. Here the difference between the county and the state is huge. For a more dramatic result let's take a look at Monroe County, Indiana home of Indiana University. Indiana was probably Obama's most impressive turn around victory. Monroe county was a large part of that. Once again 2004 v. 2008:

2004 26,965 (54%) 22,834 (45%)
2008 41,332 (66%) 21,083 (33%)

County Increase in Democratic support: 53.28%
Statewide Increase in Democratic Support: 41.12%

A lot of people attribute Obama's victory to massive turnout among African-Americans in Indianapolis and in the suburbs of Chicago in the Northern part of the state. However, Monroe County which is all of 3% African-American delivered a 20,000 vote margin for Obama. Obama won Indiana by less than 26,000 votes.

In all three cases the counties with major universities saw massive increases in Democratic voters while Republican support snak only marginally. Obama had these kinds of results in university towns across the country and it is a big reason why he will be President of the United States this time next week.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's Cold... Time For A Hockey Post

With mere months now remaining before the start of the Vancouver Olympics, it is time to start the idle speculation as to who will be chosen to represent Canada on our Men's Hockey Team. Here are my choices for a twenty-three man roster (which is what I think the Olympics is).

: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price

On the cusp
: Steve Mason

Fairly easy pickings. Brodeur and Luongo are no-brainers. The third goalie won't see much ice-time.

: Jay Bouwmeester, Shea Weber, Chris Pronger, Dion Phaneuf, Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith, Scott Niedermayer

On the Cusp
: Mike Green, Dan Boyle, Brent Seabrook, Sheldon Souray, Patrice Brisebois, Dennis Wiedeman

Lots to choose from. This group may be a little offenisve minded. However, most of these guys are effective both ways.

Forwards: I'll actually set lines here. Canada is going to need to play some centres on the wing if they are going to bring the top talent to this tournament. A lot of these guys have played on the wing for Canada before or do so on the power play.

Sidney Crosby --- Jeff Carter --- Ryan Getzlaf "Top Line"
Ryan Smyth --- Mike Richards --- Vincent Lecavalier "Second Line"
Rick Nash --- Joe Thornton --- Jerome Iginla "Checking Line"
Patrick Marleau --- Marc Savard --- Shane Doan "Energy Line"
Jonathan Toews

On the Cusp: Eric Staal, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis, Patrick Sharp, Mike Cammalleri, Brad Richards, Simon Gagne, Jordan Staal, Kris Versteeg, Patrice Bergeron, Devin Setoguchi, John Tavares.

I think between the second and third lines you can avoid putting pure checking players on this team. All four lines can put the puck in the net. Most of these guys can punish the opposition on the small ice. Crosby will excel with pure goal scorers like Jeff Carter and Ryan Getzlaf with him. I know Nash-Thornton-Iginla looks like a scoring line not a checking line, but what do you want a checking line to do? Hit? They can do that. Keep the puck away from the opposition? They can do that as well. Why Jonathan Toews as a thirteenth forward? Two words: Nagano, Leksand. Do your research if you don't know what I mean.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I may have to repeat this every day between now and the day of the BC election. I know the system is called PR-STV sometimes. That's false advertising. This is a system where a party's vote count can go down and the party can gain seats. A party's vote count can go up and they can lose seats. That's not proportional representation. It just isn't. If you want PR, don't vote for STV. Proponents will argue that because results more closely resemble PR than FPTP does, that it is proportional. That's bunk. Proportional Representation requires some method of guaranteeing proportionality. STV does not have any proportional mechanisms. That's why the Green Party of BC opposed it last time. I'll post on the flaws of STV as we get closer to the vote. I just wanted to get the basics out of the way.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Keeping An Eye Accross the Pond

If you think things are bad in North America right now, you're right. However, it could always be worse, just ask Europe. I think Germany has won the race for first major bank to be partly nationalized in 2009, the honour goes to Commerzbank. Elsewhere, the Celtic tiger continues to bleed profusely. This time it's Dell kicking the Irish when they're already down. If you think North Americans are the only ones losing auto jobs, think again. Nissan's cutting jobs in the UK. Finally, Spain's economic woes continue with unemployment over 13%. I've said it before, but the next big shock in this economic crisis is coming from Europe.

Friday, January 09, 2009

All Wars Were Not Created Equal

I love media coverage of wars that they actually know something about. You see, the Western media cares about the Middle East. So when hundreds of civilians die in a war, the coverage is appropriately hysterical. However, the ongoing war in Sri Lanka, which bares some similarities to the one in the middle east, has not received the same coverage in spite of the much higher death toll. Sri Lanka is yet another intractable conflict caused by poor post-colonial planning. The ethnic division in Sri Lanka, to make a very long story, very short, resulted in a terrorist organization (the Tamil Tigers) providing a pseudo-government to a large swath of territory not controlled or cared for by the government. The government has now decided to wipe out the Tigers. Are you starting to see the parallels?

I think it is important that every time we get hysterical over a war in the Middle East, we remember there are wars all around the world, that we just don't hear about. So yes, the conflict in Gaza is tragic. It's not more tragic than a half a dozen other conflicts in the world today. A little bit perspective may be necessary in order for everyone to stop the angry protests and accusations of racism. I am beyond tired of the conflict in the Middle East defining politics in other quarters of the world.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Harper Can Protect the Sanctity of Marriage

He's going to be so excited. I'm not talking about same-sex marriage. I'm talking about polygamy. There's a reasonable chance that the courts could strike down Canada's anti-polygamy laws. While conservatives will no doubt rant about activist judges, the Canadian Constitution has the answer: The Notwithstanding Clause. Yes, the scariest clause in the constitution which allows a government to violate the rights of Canadians if they feel like it. As long as they renew every few years, they can get away with it. Now, the clause has never been exercised by the federal government. The only famous use of the notwithstanding clause is by Quebec in defense of its draconian language laws. However, if the courts were to say that polygamy is okay, Harper (or realistically a successor by the time this gets through the appeals process) would be well within his powers to strike down such a ruling.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

2009 Projections

So, we have a new year. For whatever that is worth. So having done enough to honour the backward looking head of Janus, the Roman deity whose name graces this month, let's look forward to the year ahead. What can we expect?
  • The war in Gaza will not end before Obama is innaugurated. I expect the Israelis would like this thing to end before January 20th. I don't see it at this point. If they don't want a repeat of Lebanon 2006, they will need more time to finish their gruesome task.
  • The Liberals will support Harper's budget. Flaherty has started throwing up test balloons already. The Tories want this thing to pass and new interim leader or not, the Liberals are still broke. Also, it is fairly easy for Czar Michael the Grit to claim that the Canadian economy needs the money too much for partisanship to get in the way.
  • We will have yet another election. It won't be on the budget, but the last fall campaign was so much fun, why not do it again? Seriously, this would make four elections in five years. That's crazy. We need one of those frequent customers things from Elections Canada... have four elections and the fifth one's free!
  • John Tory will survive as PC leader. All evidence is against this. I'm probably wrong. But my gut tells me that unless the Tories throw him under the bus and run him over repeatedly, he will be the leader of the PC's come 2011.
  • Andrea Horwath will be elected leader of the Ontario NDP. Once again, I'm probably money. Smart money is on my MPP Peter Tabuns. However, I have to think that Tabuns and Prue are going after too many of the same people. They represent neighbouring ridings in Eastern Toronto and while Prue is considered more centrist and Tabuns more environmentalist, they will have to deal with anti-Toronto sentiment from outside the big smoke. A leader from Hamilton would make a lot of sense for the Ontario NDP, particularly if they want to make manufacturing their issue in 2011.
  • Team Canada will leave John Tavares off their 2010 Olympic Men's Hockey Team. I won't say whether or not this will be a good idea or not (see Crosby, 2006 for an example of a bad decision). However, with the camp being in August before Tavares plays a game in the NHL, he will be passed over when the decision is made in the fall. At some point I'm going to put together my picks for the 2010 roster.
  • Nothing significant or helpful will come of the climate change talks in Copenhagen.
  • Gordon Campbell will be re-elected in British Columbia. Carbon tax or no carbon tax. I just can't see the NDP pulling it off.
  • STV will fail by a wider margin than it did last time around. This may be wishful thinking on my part.
  • Gordon Brown will not be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom by December 31st.
  • A pro-Russian candidate will be elected President in Ukraine. A lot of these projections are not things I want, but things I think are likely. This would be one of them.
  • Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud will win a narrow victory in Israel. The coalition will be Likud-Kadima.
  • It will be months more before Belgians find a Prime Minister who can last.
So, nobody check this post twelve months from now, okay?
All views expressed in this blog are those of the author and the author alone. They do not represent the views of any organization, regardless of the author's involvement in any organizations.

All comments are the views of the individual writer. The administrator reserves the right to remove commentary which is offensive.

The author is not responsible for nor does he support any of the advertisements displayed on the page