April 10, 2014

New poll shows PCs leading Liberals in Ontario

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:46

As always with polls, take a big pinch of salt before you take them too seriously:

A new poll suggests Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives have taken the lead in popular support over the Liberals in the wake of the gas plant scandal, according to a published report.

A Forum Research poll conducted for the Toronto Star suggests Tim Hudak’s Tories have 38 per cent of support, versus 31 per cent for the Liberals. Andrea Howarth’s New Democrats are at 23 per cent.

Two weeks ago, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals led with 35 per cent of support, while the Tories were at 32 per cent and the NDP at 25 per cent.

The surge is attributed mainly to the simmering gas plants scandal.

“It’s almost all due to the scandal over the deletion of those emails concerning the gas plants,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff told 680News.

The poll also reveals that 45 per cent of those surveyed believe Wynne knew about the alleged deleting of emails related to the gas plants.

It also found that 47 per cent believe she ordered deletions.

“We did ask was the premier aware — a lot of people believe the premier was aware,” Bozinoff said.

“We also asked if people think a crime has been committed and a lot of people also think a crime has been committed.”

Of course, as long as Horwath’s NDP continue to prop up the Liberals, there won’t be a provincial election … and I doubt Horwath sees much chance of improvement over the current poll numbers. The only way the Ontario NDP will topple the government is if the scandal gets worse: the NDP can get more of their agenda passed by the Liberals than they could in a Conservative legislature, but the NDP can’t afford to look as though they’re in any way complicit in covering up wrongdoing — that would offend their base even more than it would offend undecided voters.

Update: This is one of the reasons you need to take poll numbers with a degree of skepticism:

December 11, 2013

Canada Post to phase out home delivery

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 16:10

I haven’t had home delivery of my mail for the last few decades, but for folks downtown it’s going to be an unwelcome change. The decision forced itself on the crown corporation through the arcane workings of economic reality: it just costs too much money to deliver to those millions of homes (a tweet I forgot to save said it cost over $200 per year for home delivery and just over $100 for communal mailboxes). The news is not going down well with at least one member of the official opposition, as Colby Cosh pointed out in a series of tweets:

August 30, 2013

Trade negotiations are so secret that MPs are denied access to the information

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:55

Techdirt‘s Mike Masnick says that even congressmen have (limited) access to ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation documents, but that even the NDP’s trade critic can’t get that level of information here:

Don Davies is a Canadian Member of Parliament who notes that he’s been denied access to information about the ongoing TPP negotiations, of which Canada is supposedly a member:

    “The TPP is a sweeping agreement covering issues that affect many areas of Canada’s economy and society — including several areas of policy that have never been subject to trade agreements before,” said Davies. “By keeping Parliament completely in the dark on negotiations the Conservatives also leave Canadians in the dark and, for an agreement of this magnitude that is abnormal and unacceptable.

    “If the US can allow its legislators to see the TPP text, there is no reason that Canada can’t,” Davies said.

In this case, it’s doubly ridiculous. Davies is a member of the NDP party, which is not in power, but his role is as the Official Opposition Critic for International Trade. In other words, he’s basically the trade policy expert for the NDP, and as such, you’d think he should at the very least be included in the details of ongoing negotiations. Yet again, though, it seems that the main negotiating parties involved in the TPP have realized that the best way to get across an agreement they like is to keep it as secretive and non-transparent as possible, especially from critics. This is the exact opposite of how democratic governments are supposed to work.

Of course, the addition of Canada to the TPP has always been done in a way to keep our neighbor up north as a silent partner to the US’s position. You may recall that the US didn’t let Canada join until well into the negotiating process, and as part of the invite, Canada was told that it had to accept all negotiated text without question, even though it wasn’t allowed to see it yet. And, related to that, they had to agree to future texts during some meetings where they weren’t allowed to attend.

August 8, 2013

A brief moment of sympathy for Thomas Mulcair

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:54

Richard Anderson finds a drop of sympathy for the unexpected plight of the leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition:

It must be galling to be Thomas Mulcair right now. A decades long career spent climbing the greasy pole of Quebec politics. A quick ascent to the federal level and then, by the oddest stroke of luck, an unexpected death places you into the leader’s role. It seems that with a bit of luck your old nemesis the Liberal Party might be finished after the next election. Happy days to be leader of the Official Opposition.

That is until the MSM started following around the latest bright shiny thing: Justin Trudeau.

While the Once and Future King is touring the sumptuous beauty of British Columbia, poor Tommy is wandering through the backwoods of Northern Ontario. The region is horribly neglected. An afterthought to provincial administrators in downtown Toronto. The area above the French River, sadly, has always failed to capture the imagination of Canadians.

The settlement of the West is one of the great romances of Canadian history, if not the greatest. The charm of the Maritimes is irresistible. The North’s terrible majesty demands admiration. Quebec is Quebec. Southern Ontario is the center of English Canada, Toronto commanding the region like, well, an Imperial Capital around which all else revolves.

Northern Ontario is kind of just up there. Somewhere between Barrie and Winnipeg. What small romance that region conveys is from faded memories of the great mineral boom a century ago, and the twangy recollections of Stompin’ Tom. Only he could make Sudbury Saturday Nights memorable. At least Hamilton has the virtue of being between Burlington and Niagara.

Poor, poor Tommy. There isn’t a major media outlet that gives a damn about his “listening tour.” Leader of the NDP shaking hands with a miners union representative doesn’t make for great copy, especially not when competing with Justin’s adorable family.

June 26, 2013

The many personae of Bob Rae

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:07

At Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson says goodbye (for now) to Bob Rae:

There has, in truth, not been one Bob Rae in Canadian public life. There have been several, each slightly less obnoxious than the last. The ex-interim Liberal leader holds the rare distinction of actually having improved with age. From student radical and Rhodes Scholar, to NDP hell raiser who helped topple Joe Clark’s government, to enabler of David Peterson’s coup d’grace for the Ontario Tory dynasty in 1985. The Bob is a very well travelled pol. Few vote chaser survive this long in the game, so a measure of respect is due. I’ll measure it out by the thimble.

Yet whatever he has done before or since, Bob Rae will always be the first and so far only NDP Premier of Ontario. Rae could win the Nobel Prize tomorrow and his obituary would still mention his epic single term as Premier. While I’ve never met the man, perhaps a saving grace for us both, he is the first political figure of whom I have a clear image. There is no figure in modern Ontario politics, aside from Mike Harris himself, who was as thoroughly despised as Bob Rae.

[. . .]

Rae Days were a sincere attempt to be politically Left wing while also fiscally sane. Roy Romanow was doing similar things in Saskatchewan at the time. But Prairie socialists seem to be saner than Ontario socialists. Perhaps it’s something in the water. An intelligent labour movement would have recognized that Bob Rae was trying to save their necks. The blockheads running the public sector unions in the early 1990s did not realize this or did not care to acknowledge fiscal reality. These were the sorts of people who refer to their fellow union members as “brothers and sisters.” They hadn’t gotten the memo about the failure of socialism. Judging by their successors the public sector union movement still hasn’t.

It’s believed that at some point in 1993 or 1994, looking out of his office at Queen’s Park toward a sea of protesting civil servants, that Bob Rae realized he was a Liberal. His brother was a Liberal. Many of his friends were Liberals. From time to time Liberals were known to balance the books and speak in coherent sentences. The Liberals were the party of sane statists. Since he was the NDP Premier of Ontario he decided to ride the whole thing out, delaying the election until the last possible moment. Mike Harris won. Bob Rae went into exile for eleven years and the rest is history.

With the Bob gone Justin is now left without adult supervision. Certainly Gerald Butts & Co are there to direct their ward, but they’re not grizzled old veterans. In his short stint as interim Liberal leader Bob Rae showed himself as smooth, graceful and facile. A long haul from the awkward socialist geek who stunned the country by winning power a generation earlier. Politics is a game won by professionals. For all his many sins and occasional virtues, Bob Rae was a professional politician. Justin Trudeau is not. There is some hope in that.

May 30, 2013

The real reason we’re getting wall-to-wall senate scandal coverage

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:41

Colby Cosh suspects we may be on the receiving end of a massive distraction attempt:

I’m starting to half-believe the theory that the Senate expense scandal was cooked up to cover other problems for the Conservative Party of Canada. The broad main effect of the Senate fracas so far has been to exasperate the hell out of everybody. Mike Duffy’s bad behaviour presents the public with the frustrating conundrum that only the Senate can make rules for or punish errant senators, and that the major features of the Constitution (including that one) are probably immune from formal amendment for the next hundred years or so. Stephen Harper’s statutory end-run proposals for permitting Senate elections and tightening term limits are currently awaiting scrutiny by the Supreme Court; if the court rejects his measures, he can argue that they represented at least a fillip of attainable accountability, which they do, and that it is not his fault they were bounced.

In modern history, providing convenient excuses for inaction by elected politicians is about 45 per cent of the court’s function. And, at that, maybe it is okay to notice that the court, now crowded with Harper appointees, is as much an audience for Duffy’s antics as the rest of us. On top of all this, the whole mess invited Justin Trudeau, following cues like a good drama teacher, to plunge headlong into the trap of not only defending the Senate, but defending it on the specific grounds that Quebec is beneficially overrepresented therein.

If people are pulling faces at the Senate, that’s a win for the Conservative party. But perhaps more importantly, it’s a boost for the New Democrats, who have a clear “dynamite it” position on the Senate that they have advocated pretty consistently for half a century. Keeping the seat counts of the NDP and the Liberals roughly level with each other is the paramount strategic axiom for the Tories from now until (at least) 2015.

Most Canadians over the age of 40 would rather do almost anything other than watch another attempt at constitutional wrangling … we saw what happened the last couple of times the feds and the provinces tried re-rigging things to their preference.

May 15, 2013

Pollsters wrong-footed (again) by BC election results

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:07

It wasn’t supposed to go down like this:

First things first: British Columbians last night witnessed the most incredible comeback in recent political history, and the biggest choke the province has ever seen.

In the days ahead, Christy Clark’s stunning, come-from-behind win will be endlessly compared to Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s surprise win over Wildrose in 2011. But this is so much harder to believe.

For starters, Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives were actually leading Wildrose in polls right up until the election. The B.C. Liberals have essentially been trailing the NDP since 2009 (briefly, after the 2011 leadership race that saw Clark take the Liberal helm, the party moved ahead of the NDP in polls before again plunging far behind).

And in Alberta, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith made serious campaign blunders. Many Albertans scurried back to the PCs, worried Smith wasn’t ready for prime time. But B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix made no major mistakes. In fact, Dix’s campaign had so impressed the Globe and Mail that yesterday it published a premature ode to his campaign. Dix’s positive style would surely become a model for politicians across the country, it argued.

Just how historic was the Liberal win? Going back 20 years, there are no examples of a government in a parliamentary system trailing by such a wide margin for the 18 months leading up to an election, then coming from behind for the win.

And the Liberals didn’t just win; they increased their seat count, giving Clark a comfortable, 50-seat majority (the NDP won just 32 seats).

Those results almost perfectly reversed predictions of pollsters who, after yet another spectacularly bad call, will certainly face tough questions.

March 22, 2013

The plight of the NDP in their ancestral homeland

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:44

Colby Cosh looks at the long road back for Saskatchewan’s NDP, which bestrode the province like a Colossus for a political eternity but is now a peripheral player:

These are hard times for the New Democratic Party in Saskatchewan — the party’s ancestral wellspring, the mecca it faces at prayer. Not so long ago, the NDP’s provincial leader was typically, by virtue of his office, the second-most prominent figure in the movement nationwide. Typically, that is, when he wasn’t in first place. And the New Democrats had the kind of sweet corner on Saskatchewan’s legislature that the Liberals had on the Dominion’s. From 1942 to 2009, every leader of the provincial party also served as premier at least once.

But the winner of the Saskatchewan NDP’s March 9 leadership tilt, Cam Broten, takes charge with the benefits and the burdens of low expectations. Broten now commands an Opposition of just nine members to the government’s 49, and Premier Brad Wall’s approval ratings are the envy of Confederation.

Broten, the 35-year-old MLA for Saskatoon-Massey Place, ran on a platform that was light on ideological tub-thumping and heavy on plans for rebuilding the NDP’s political institutions. Like the Progressive Conservatives in Alberta, the New Democrats had grown too dependent on the voters’ total psychological identification of the party with the government, and were perhaps not careful enough to ensure that the former could thrive if detached from the latter. Two years of drama at the Ottawa level of the NDP do not seem to have done Saskatchewan’s New Democrats any favours, and federal Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair’s views on resources and national unity have been — well, what’s the opposite of a favour?

March 11, 2013

BC’s ruling Liberal party facing very long odds of re-election

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:40

British Columbia’s next provincial election is still a couple of months away, but the pundits are already making plans for what happens after the BC Liberal party is taken out to the knacker’s yard and the NDP takes power (based on recent polls and the amazing ability of the Liberals to generate bad press):

Assuming everyone and their brother hasn’t been lying to pollsters, the election is pretty much in the bag for the BC NDP. Not only is there strong “time for a change” momentum aiding the party, after three terms of the BC Liberals, but recent occasions where the Premier, Christy Clark, and her entourage only opened their mouths to change feet (e.g. “Ethnicgate”) have brought the prospects of a competitive election down sharply.

Clark’s road map for the election has never been good. As reported on Feb. 15 in your Beacon News, before the budget and Ethnicgate erupted, the absolute best case for the BC Liberals was 34 seats — a respectable loss. A roadmap today would see 25 or fewer seats if everything breaks their way.

There are 85 ridings in the province, so 43 seats held by a single party is a majority. In addition to the Liberals and the NDP, there’s also a Conservative party in BC, but it apparently acts as a role model for dysfunctional organizations:

Meanwhile, John Cummins’ BC Conservatives seem equally determined to destroy their party. The party, at the moment, is going into an election without any of its key officers: between purges run by the leader’s coterie and resignations in disgust, the party’s officers are missing in action. Riding associations are walking, as leader Cummins overrides their nominating selections to impose his own choice of candidates.

So, in the best traditions of sauve qui peut, there’s a fair bit of talk about a new party to replace the discredited Liberals and the self-destructing Conservatives:

That’s why individuals affiliated with both the BC Conservatives and the BC Liberals are starting to organize for a new party. The project is nicknamed “Free Enterprise Party 3.0″.

[. . .]

Growing a new party, goes the thinking, puts everyone on an even footing. Those key Liberals who retired rather than run again under Christy Clark’s banner might be enticed to shift over and play a role in building a new party. Riding associations would be built, with no one grandfathered in. The new party, in turn, would dump all the baggage of the past years in one fell swoop.

There’s evidently some interest from the moneyed who normally support the “anything-but-the-NDP” option in the province. They’ll top up the Liberal coffers for the election — but are looking to shift their focus after it if the BC Liberals are crushed.

Of course, while the PR fiascos are real, the polls are only a way marker. Everyone who confidently predicted the outcome of the last Alberta election is now a lot more wary of the opinion polls. Nobody wants to provide the 2013 equivalent of the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline.

March 8, 2013

Jack Layton biopic provokes outrage … because there isn’t a French version

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:03

I’ll let Paul Wells explain this one:

January 27, 2013

Aaron Wherry dissects Andrew Coyne’s “grand coalition” notion

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:03

Andrew Coyne wrote an appeal to the New Democrats, Liberals, and Greens, prodding them in the direction of a temporary political alliance to topple the Conservatives and to fundamentally change the Canadian electoral system to ensure that the Conservatives would never again form a government (actually, that’s not what he says, but I’m sure that’s how individual NDP, Liberal, and Green supporters will envision the result). In Maclean’s, Aaron Wherry points out that however appealing the coalition idea might be, the practical stumbling blocks are pretty intimidating:

Are enough voters so interested in electoral reform that they would support turning the next election into a referendum on that subject? Could enough voters be convinced to momentarily suspend their concerns about other issues? Could enough voters be convinced to ignore the other policy differences between the NDP, Liberals and Greens? Could enough voters be convinced to ignore the possible ramifications of all other policy debates between the parties to vote with the hope that a real election would then be run in short order?

I’ll try to answer those questions: No. Granted, I can’t predict the future with certainty (and have just finished arguing against making such predictions). Perhaps the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens could persuade voters to make this a singular focus. But this strikes me as implausible. I don’t think voters, in general, are so interested in electoral reform that they’d go along with this. At the very least, it seems like a remarkable gamble for the three parties to make. (And, keep in mind, the Conservatives would be keen to explain, loudly and repeatedly and prominently, why this was such a terrible idea.)

[. . .]

Fundamentally overhauling the electoral system would probably take more than a couple days. Legislation would conceivably have to be passed through the House. Legislation would conceivably have to be passed through the Senate (how would a Conservative majority in the Senate handle such legislation?).

Even if you imagine this proceeding as expeditiously as possible, this would take some period of time (A month? A few months? More?). Someone would have to be Prime Minister while this was happening. Someone would have to be governing. How would that work? Conceivably they would have no mandate beyond changing the electoral system. Would they promise to not touch anything else for as long as they were in government? Would they promise to just carry on with Conservative policy until another election could be held? (Would anyone believe them if they promised as much?) What if something bad happened? What if something came up that required government action?

This is not a rhetorical device. I’m not trying to bury the idea in questions. I honestly want to know how this would work because I honestly don’t understand how this is supposed to work. What kind of government would we have for however long it took to change the federal electoral system and what would be the ramifications of having such a government?

After all this time in power, the Conservatives are still being accused of harbouring a “secret agenda” that will destroy Canada as we know it. Handing Stephen Harper and his friends an even bigger “secret agenda” stick with which to beat the opposition doesn’t strike me as a particularly clever move at this stage of the electoral cycle.

January 14, 2013

Inside Ottawa: NDP edition

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 17:12

I found this rather amusing:

October 16, 2012

Whither Ontario?

Filed under: Cancon, Government — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:27

Blazing Cat Fur celebrates the departure of Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, but warns that there’s little joy for the Tories (or ordinary Ontarians for that matter) even with McGuinty off the stage:

So what’s next for Ontario? Tim Hudak will not be the one to lead Ontario out of the wilderness and I don’t blame Hudak. I doubt any conservative will be elected premier for a very long time in Ontario.

McGuinty turned Ontario into a have not province and in the process sold Ontario to the public service unions. No conservative candidate, no matter how blue the 905 etc, can realistically expect to win against Fortress Entitlement, aka Toronto. If you want to see the future of Ontario then look to Detroit. Successive Democratic party regimes looted the tax payers to pay for the promises made to their “friends”. The resulting sense of entitlement became institutionalized, a part of the political DNA. Ontario is no different, look at how Toronto is run, the entitlement spiral is well on its way there. The public service unions will continue to demand more and our politicians will continue to grant them more and there’s nothing you or I can do about it except move. It’s a simple numbers game and there’s more of them than there are of us.

One can only hope that he’s being too pessimistic. But the politician most likely to gain from McGuinty’s resignation isn’t even a member of the Liberal party: it’s NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who may be able to ride the tail end of the federal NDP surge into Queen’s Park as our second NDP premier.

June 24, 2012

Paul Wells: What is behind the easy ride for Thomas Mulcair?

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:41

In Maclean’s, Paul Wells ponders what could be preventing Stephen Harper from bringing down the hammer on Thomas Mulcair the way he did on Stéphane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, and Bob Rae:

For six years Stephen Harper’s opponents have wondered when he would stop spending millions of dollars to whale the tar out of them. Apparently the answer was that he’d stop as soon as his opponent stopped being Liberal.

[. . .]

The surprise is that Harper is not yet using his old tricks to change it.

His old tricks would consist of a heavy, sustained advertising campaign against the man who has risen highest against him. That’s what he did against Stéphane Dion, Michael Ignatieff and then, three months ago, against Bob Rae. Now, one of these things is not like the others. In minority government parliaments where an election always loomed, Dion and Ignatieff were present dangers. But going after Rae looks like a concession to instinct—and a mistake. The money spent has been lost, the neutralized enemy is now gone, and if the Liberals manage to find somebody more impressive to lead them, Harper will wish he’d let Rae limp to the next election.

Meanwhile, apart from the odd bit of ineffectual Conservative sass-talking, Mulcair rises unhindered. Why? Three possibilities. Maybe Harper is lost in the face of superior opposition. Maybe his minions are preparing ads that will take Mulcair apart in 2013.

Or maybe Harper is happy to see Mulcair rise. The Liberals, who governed Canada for most of the 20th century while the Conservatives didn’t, are left squeezed from both sides but too stubborn to disappear. The left-of-Conservative vote remains split. With the Liberals dominant in the centre, Conservative parties won three elections between 1963 and 2004. With the NDP dominant on the left, Conservatives would win more. Harper doesn’t control all of Canadian politics or anywhere close, but if he left a landscape like that behind him, he could retire a happy man.

April 15, 2012

Increasing taxes on the “1%” won’t close the gap — and might make it worse

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:13

Joseph Brean in the National Post:

That the rich should contribute more than their current share to the common good is a proposal with popularity. From Paris and London to Nova Scotia and Alberta, “tax the rich” has become a dominant theme in budget debates and elections around the world.

In Ontario, for example, NDP leader Andrea Horwath’s proposal to create a new tax bracket for people who make more than half-a-million dollars a year, illustrates the persistent attraction of such schemes for governments in deficit.

“The issue really is one of perceived fairness,” said Robin Boadway, a taxation expert and professor of economics at Queen’s University, who notes that the income of the highest earners has been increasing much faster than the middle and lower ranks. Taxation, to a great degree, relies on the goodwill and trust of citizens, he said, and inequality in tax codes can violate that trust.

Governments acting like Robin Hood, however, have tended to provoke unforeseen problems, most recently in Britain, where an effort to tax the rich ended up — quite literally — costing the government deeply.

It always seems to be a surprise when people respond to incentives in creative ways … and this applies especially to creative ways to avoid paying higher taxes. People will adjust their behaviour to minimize their tax burden — both legally and not-as-legally. This is after all one of the reasons that there are so many tax provisions: the government wants to encourage certain kinds of behaviour (and so gives a tax credit) and discourage other kinds of behaviour (and so levies a specific tax on it). Flexibility occurs on both the tax-levying and tax-paying sides of the fence.

One of the complaints of middle-class taxpayers is that there are few mechanisms they can use to legally reduce their tax burden, while the wealthy have lots of ways to do this. This isn’t going to change if the government increases the top rate of tax — in fact it will encourage more creative use of the tax-lowering provisions of the law (and lawyers and accountants will benefit by helping their wealthy clients ot take advantage of those provisions).

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