Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Survey Says...

I got the "annual" Liberal Party member's survey today in the mail. I put annual in quotation marks because I don't ever remember getting one before. Maybe I just threw them out without really looking at it like most of my LPC mail in previous years (I don't have any money for them and that's usually what there after). Anyway, since Ignatieff has been vague to opaque on his policy ideas up to now, I thought it might be interesting to see what they're asking questions about. Here were the areas:
  • Canadian Culture
  • Knowledge and Innovation
  • Health Care
  • Feelings About the Liberal Party
The more I think about it, the more I think this survey isn't for policy-making but rather for fundraising. The idea being find the issue that members are most passionate about and ask for money to protect it/accomplish it. Otherwise, if this is actually policy oriented, we could be running an election campaign without talking about the economy, the war in Afghanistan or the environment to name but a few major issues. I really hope this is from the fundraising side. Although the response deadline of September 30th (right around the time a writ would be theoretically dropped and consequentially a platform finalized) is a little concerning. There is one disheartening thing regardless of what this is being used for. There was no way (unless you offered it) to tell who filled out the survey, meaning the information is not being put into a fancy database to compete with the Tories.


Iceland seems like it will be next into the European Union. This is in spite of the fact that many with in the EU think the EU has expanded too far too fast. Iceland's application is no doubt helped by the fact that it is a long-time democracy with a high standard of living. It is also absurdly tiny in terms of population making it no threat should the EU ever become democratic (see reason 5093 that Turkey's application is on ice for comparison). The fact that Iceland's economy has collapsed seems to be less worrisome to the EU. Economic stability used to be a key component of accession, apparently not so much anymore. Indeed according to Wikipedia, the Copenhagen Criteria (the basic criteria for accession) specifically include a country's "ability to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union." Iceland's ability to cope with economic pressures is, to put it kindly, a point for debate. However, in EU politics some democracy-loving Scandinavians are unlikely to offend anyone. Bets on Croatia being 29? Or are the Slovenes going to go Cypriot on them (reason 2340 that Turkey's application is on ice)?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hey Mr. Miller...

There's some city data, I'd like open access to. What exactly did the city get for over five weeks of stench and disruption?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Continuing Follies of the EU

The EU has decided to ban Canadian seal products on the grounds that well, seals are really cute. It is depressing that the largest trading bloc on the planet makes decisions in this manner. Then again, this shouldn't be surprising from an organization which has an ongoing policy of banning things that might someday be considered unsafe. I won't even get into the unbelievable hypocrisy being exercised by countries like Spain whose dubious/illegal fishing practices make the commercial seal hunt a virtual necessity. Screw economics, seals are cute. Minister Day, don't you dare sign a free trade agreement with the EU until this absurd ban is lifted.

Won't Somebody Save the Sea-Kitten?

Sunday, July 26, 2009


The Constitutional Court in Germany came down with a ruling last month that may change the future of our planet, at very least the EU. There was a lot of hype surrounding the latest European Parliamentary elections last month. Many EU advocates hoped that it would be the start of true democracy in the European Union. The constitutional court disagrees. The court told the German government that it had a responsibility to check the power of the European Union. That in and of itself is a damning statement coming from the heart of the European Union. However, part of the rationale given is a dagger to the Union's heart. The court said according to The Economist that “'no uniform European people' could 'express its majority will in a politically effective manner.'” In other words, it confirmed a sentiment common among many Europeans: the European Parliament is a joke.

We're mere weeks away from the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. For those not following the absurdity, the Lisbon Treaty is the "ends justify the means" treaty. After a more robust EU constitution failed in the first referenda it was put before, the Lisbon Treaty was watered down to be a) acceptable to as many people as possible and b) require as few countries as possible to actually have a referendum on it. The message on that was loud and clear: we can't let the people get involved or this thing will die. Unfortunately, Ireland requires referenda for a lot more things than most countries so the Irish had to vote to approve Lisbon. The first vote failed over sovereignty concerns (some real, some imagined). Now, Lisbon has been further dilluted to try to get Irish approval. If it succeeds, the EU could be more managable. I really, really don't like direct democracy most of the time. However, watching EU politicians finesse their way around the will of the people makes me sick.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MIller Is Not Beyond Criticism

The Globe and Mail is defending Mayor Miller against his critics. First, in an editorial yesterday and today Marcus Gee joined the act. The argument is that since the critics agree with Miller that the unions deserve tough love, that they should get behind the Mayor. This is somewhat absurd. The Globe and Gee are quick to point out that much of the criticism of the mayor is related to the upcoming 2010 election. Ridiculously, they ignore the fact that the mayor's own sudden commitment to fiscal prudence is directly related to that same election. Miller's policy in his first six years as Mayor has been to make concessions a plenty to unions and anyone else looking for money and then pay for that largess through higher taxes and fees. Now faced with declining popularity and a public perception that he's in bed with the unions, he's decided to go to war. To criticize this deathbed conversion is not at all unfair. Nor is it surprising that his long-time critics are slightly incredulous when asked for comment.

The council pay hikes are the only contracts that council can change easily and that's why they are the target of criticism. If the right on council could rollback the concessions made to other municipal employees, they would. However, that is not possible at this point, so they harp on the one thing they can change. Politics, as the old saying goes, is the art of the possible.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stand Up For Canadian Health Care

In 2006, Stephen Harper was elected Prime Minister under the slogan "Stand Up for Canada." How cutting the GST or even fighting corruption was "standing up for Canada," I've never really understood but we'll forget about that for now. Canadian health care isn't just a source of national pride, it is a major selling point for companies looking to locate in Canada as opposed to the United States. Companies know that if they locate in Canada their employees will receive top quality medical care and neither the company nor their employees will have to worry about rising health care costs strangling the life out of their business or putting them into personal bankruptcy. That reputation, crucial to Canada's financial future, is under daily attack in the American media. Lies and half-truths are allowed to sit in the eyes of Americans without any response from Ottawa. The Prime Minister is not afraid to talk about Canada's banks on American television and spends government money extolling the benefit of government programs to Canadians. Why is it, that when the topic of Canadian health care comes up, he's no longer interested in talking to Fox News? This government has done perilously little as the economy has nosedived. If companies choose to locate outside of this country because our government failed to counter the negative spin, those jobs will be added to the growing mountain on this Prime Minister's head. He doesn't need that. More importantly, the country doesn't need that. So Mr. Prime Minister, please make good on your election slogan and stand up for Canadian health care.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The More the Merrier

The message emerging from the Harper government seems to be goods, yes; people no. I think it is philosophically strange, if not inconsistent, to have a free trade deal with a country, say Mexico, and require a visa for their citizens to visit. We're happy to trade with you as long as you don't deliver the goods yourself? My default position on immigration is to throw the gates wide. After all, this country would be a lot easier to govern and do business in if there were more people in it. Therefore, to my mind, the problem here isn't that are refugee system is inefficient and slightly defective but that our regular immigration system isn't keeping up with demand. If people in the Czech Republic or Mexico thought they could get in as regular immigrants without having to wait around for years, they'd be less likely to be trying to use the refugee system as a backdoor. A wider front door might make it easier to figure out who's at the back door without requiring a visa of some of our closest allies. We are spending billions more than we have, and none of it can go to fix the backlog at immigration? This is a situation where more money for more immigration officers and more integration programs in Canada (ESL, credential issues etc.) will mean fewer problems in the long run.

However that is not the only issue at play here. There is the possibility, a strong one in my view, that there are legitimate Roma refugee claimants from the Czech Republic. Likewise, given the unfortunate spike in drug-related violence in Mexico, there may be Mexican citizens who fear for their lives if they stay in Mexico. No one understands that better than the Mexican government. We've angered our allies by telling them that we don't trust them enough to come here on vacation. I suspect we would have angered them less by saying yes, in spite of your best efforts, there are people in your country who have legitimate refugee claims and we're going to let them in.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Flanagan Sees Part of the Picture

My problem with conservatives is that they quite often only see half the picture on things. The recent flap about Barack Obama looking at a young woman's posterior/helping a young woman down the steps illustrates the point visually. However, Tom Flanagan's piece in the Globe yesterday demonstrates it equally well. Flanagan points out that negative political campaigning is as old as politics itself and on this point he is quite right. However, he misses not just half but two-thirds of the picture on this. The first is a farily straightforward corollary to his argument: since the time of Pericles, politicians have feigned offense at being attacked. The most vivid recent example may be Hillary "3 AM" Clinton getting worked up over a nasty pamphlet the Obama campaign put out. Was she offended? Maybe but probably not. She definitely thought that she could fling the mud back at Obama for political gain (see Dalton McGuinty v. Ernie Eves and the reptillian kitten eater). The other part of the equation is why people are upset about the Conservative ads.

First, in many cases, they cross some lines. Saying your opponents support pedophiles (anti-Bloc leaflets) is a tad harsh even in historical context. Most of the time, however, what is being deplored is not the fact that the Tories are going negative per se, but that there going negative well outside of any election period. Liberals aren't still stinging about the attack ads the Tories ran during the last election. It was the ads they ran 18 months before the last election that rancoured them. Likewise, I don't think Liberals are necessarily surprised that Iggy is being criticized for his prolonged absence from the country. Sure, they are trying to turn it on the Tories by saying its an attack on any Canadian who has spent time abroad including foreign born Canadians. That shouldn't surprise an old hand like Flanagan. The similarly deplorable thing about the Ignatieff and Dion ads is not their content but rather the creation of a permanent campaign mentality in Ottawa. That is new. The idea that the campaign never stops is not something that has always been true. It is mildy disturbing especially when we are confronted by a seeming perpetual state of minority/coalition governments.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Japan Votes 2009

Finally, Taro Aso has decided to take his country to the polls. The LDP which has been the first, second, third, fourth parties of Japanese politics for fifty years looks like it will be defeated. There could be an earthquake in Japanese politics. Then again, since much of the opposition DPJ is disgruntled former LDPers, I'm not sure that a shift in governing parties would be a seismic shift in policy. This is all very frustrating for many in Japan who have been stuck in an economic slump for the last twenty years. That slump is now a full blown catastrophe in the wake of the economic collapse of the past year, with a significant number of people actually being unemployed in Japan; something that is not supposed to happen in the land of lifetime employment. Look for the increasingly old Asian power to continue to stumble no matter who wins the upcoming election.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


My seat projection formulae are far from perfect but I thought the Quebec numbers looked off. On closer inspection, they were off. Basically, I had short-changed the Bloc. Call it the statistical equivalent of a Freudian slip. The result is that the balance of power shifts from the Liberals to the Tories. As five formerly projected Grit seats become Bloc seats while only Beauport -- Limoilou separates from the Tory fold. Also, André Arthur is now projected to go down to defeat, although that is difficult to discern from polls that don't ask about independents. New national numbers are at right and below:

CPC 116
LPC 115
BQ 46
NDP 29

The Quebec numbers are now as follows:

BQ 48
LPC 21

This will all be moot within the next couple of weeks when I revise my projections to include new polling data. I'd like at least one more poll before I revise.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bueller? Bueller?

Once is kind of funny. But twice? Can we fire somebody on the Prime Minister's travel team? Namely the guy that keeps him out of the washroom when he's supposed to be taking pictures with world leaders. You know these other world leaders are going to start to think Harper doesn't like them.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Harper Hands Out Stimulus... For Italy

Five million for earthquake reconstruction in Aquilla. I suppose there's nothing wrong with helping out a community down on its luck. I do find it a little interesting that this is the first time Harper decided to announce the moneys. Apparently, it took a few months and a photo-op for the money to be worth spending. I wonder if the Prime Minister will get his name on a plaque.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Projection Explanation

I just wanted to add a brief explanation to my seat projection below. The way I'm doing this involves looking at the 2004, 2006 and 2008 results at the riding level and comparing those results to the national and provincial results on a party by party basis. This allows me, given access to some decent polling, to produce an estimate of what would happen if those numbers prove accurate on a riding by riding basis. As I said, I have compiled the data for all 308 ridings. However, I just want to show what the data produces for a couple of ridings to give you an idea of what I'm looking at when I make my predictions.

First a riding where there is little debate over what is going to happen: the Liberal stronghold of St. Paul's in downtown Toronto. Given the National and Provincial data available at threehundredeight (and thanks to the folks behind it for saving me the work), my spreadsheet tells me that the expected result in St. Paul's if the election were to happen with those national/provincial results is:

Liberals (presumably the good doctor): 54.03%
Tories: 21.16%
NDP: 11.06%
Greens: 10.27%

I am well aware this does not add up to 100% but neither do most polls including the aggregates from which I'm working. This result, I think, would be in keeping with any objective assessment of the situation on the ground in St. Paul's. Second, let's look at one of the ridings that raised an eyebrow in the comments: Churchill. Once again based on the national and provincial available (I have a formula to determine what a regional "Prairie" number means in Manitoba for each party), the results are predicted to be as follows:

Liberals: 34.95%
Tories: 29.96%
NDP: 22.79%
Greens: 5.04%

Now, I don't necessarily believe the Liberals will win by 5 percentage points in Churchill. However, if they Liberals really are at 23% in the Prairies (up 4 points from 2008) as the polls suggest, the votes are much more likely to turn up in Churchill than they are Battlefords-Lloydminister where I predict just 12.48% for the unlucky Liberal candidate. That's what my spreadsheet is telling me. So, I'm not saying that you can bank on four Liberal seats in Manitoba, I'm saying that it is a distinct possibility if the polls remain the same. Quick side note, two of the other Liberal seats projected in Manitoba have a slimmer margin than Churchill so it could easily just be Anita Neville coming back for the Grits. Finally let's look at a riding that I think is actually poorly served by my models. In 2008, the results in Edmonton-Strathcona were as follows:

NDP 42.6%
Tories: 41.6%
Liberals: 9.1%
Greens: 6.4%

That result represented a 10 point jump in NDP popularity in the riding since 2006 and an amazing 33 point jump since 2004. With the NDP down marginally in popularity both provincially and nationally, my model anticipates the following for a future election:

Tories: 38.51%
NDP: 33.18%
Liberals: 16.59%
Greens: 8.04%

The problem is that the 2004 result for the NDP (around 9% of the vote) ways down their chances of holding on to the riding in my formula. My model places the majority of the weight on the 2008 election, but 2004 does figure into the calculation because it provides more data points which hopefully makes the predictions more accurate. In this case, because of the massive shift in support, it may be undervaluing the popularity of Linda Duncan in Edmonton-Strathcona. For most ridings, the voter intentions are relatively stable and these kinds of problems don't occur. I stand by my numbers but I understand that they aren't and frankly cannot be perfect. Only time will tell how well this model holds up when faced with reality. I think it is probably a more detailed model at the local level than is generally used to do seat projections and that's why I've decided to share it. Much like DemocraticSpace's riding projections, these should be taken with a grain of salt.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Seat Projection

I'm going to start doing a somewhat regular seat projection. I'll use aggregate poll data from here (I don't feel compelled to duplicate good work) but my own methods for predicting results. Briefly, my methodology results in a riding-by-riding projection based on current polling and historical data but I will save a riding-by-riding prediction (it makes for a long and boring post otherwise) for an actual election period. My first projection is at right above the archive. Here's the national and provincial (yes, provincial not regional) breakdown:

National: CPC 118 LPC 121 NDP 29 BQ 39 IND 1

BC: CPC 18 LPC 8 NDP 10
AB: CPC 28
SK: CPC 13 LPC 1
Territories: CPC 1 LPC 1 NDP 1
ON: CPC 37 LPC 58 NDP 11
PQ: CPC 8 LPC 27 BQ 39 IND 1

My finger was only on the scale twice in these projections, both times in favour of the Conservatives. First to hand the seat vacated by Bill Casey to the Tories which I think only makes sense. The second time was to give the Tories Nunavut. It's very hard to do accurate readings on the North for a bunch of reasons and I think that Leona Aglukkaq is stronger than my number's tell me. The Quebec numbers I don't entirely trust (may have to work with my formulae). If I was just taking educated guesses I'd say Mulcair holds on to Outremont and the Tories don't save themselves in 8 seats but the data says otherwise. I was close to giving Mulcair his seat in spite of my data and I may in a future projection.

Long story short is we are in a dead heat at the moment. We shall see what the summer brings.
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