"Hey, how about a little less questions and a little more shut the hell up?!"
-- Brian Griffin

Let’s Split!

I’ve been griping about Harpers’ new campaign move tax relief plan with mom (being single she would get the shaft in this setup) so i thought I’d bring it to the blog (knowing how all of you enjoy a good gripe). So the idea is that if you’re married and your spouse makes significantly less than you then you can split your income between the two of you, working the tax brackets in your favor. It’s a great plan for single income married couples and families, married pensioners, and of course the wealthy generally get a little extra money to throw around during their next money fight; and all for the low low estimated cost of 5 billion dollars. But it’s OK! Because apparently that’s about what our estimated federal surplus is looking like, which Harper claims he always meant to give back to the canadian people in the form of tax breaks. Of course, by ‘Canadian people’ he doesn’t mean all of us (I mean, why should a single parent get any extra cash?) he’s more refering to families with a stay at home parent, the rich, and pensioners (wait, who are his core constituency again, i forget…) because tax cuts that benefit all would clearly be unreasonable (i mean, could you imagine if someone was expected to pay the same taxes as someone who did the same job but wasn’t married? I know, it’s just preposterous…). Personally I think we just need more things to claim, since there’re such different things to claim if you have kids (regardless of being married) then if you were a pensioner, etc…


So it seems I must have won

I didn’t get a chance to post about this last week, but Ottawa’s mayoral race resulted in a bit of a surprise for most of our crowd…I’m pretty sure all of us had pegged it as a showdown between Munter (the pinko lefty) and Chiarelli (the populist middle-of-the-road guy). When the big-business right-wing guy took the race, I guess we all got a reminder that Ottawa tends to be a reasonably conservative town…something that may have been masked in the last decade by the growing geek quadrant that has been somewhat stifled in recent years.

Also last weekend, the boat came out of the water. BogMan and I got out for one last (and very cold) sail on the Friday before taking the batteries out (well, actually, he took the batteries out by climbing under the cockpit again…I just directed from above). Then on Saturday, Righteous Guy joined BogMan and I in lowering the mast, while The Grabber and SMC watched from a safe distance. Then, finally, on Sunday, BogMan and I pulled the boat out of the water (with the help of one of the sailing club service providers), and wrapped it up like a big blue enchilada. Only six more months before the next sailing season… :-(

Last but not least, BNL has provided another song for the soundtrack of my life. This one hasn’t bumped the already-established theme song, but it’s definitely on the “Songs About and Inspired By” CD… :-)


Everybody begs for self-esteem

I’m finding it greatly amusing to watch the fortunes of the federal Liberal party succumb to a high-stakes game of “Not It!” :-)

Looking at the available candidates, I think that Belinda Stronach has a pretty strong chance at becoming the next Liberal leader, which is definitely not a phrase I expected to be typing even a year ago. I think she’s either a brilliant strategist or a nimble opportunist…or possibly a bit of both. But it looks like we’ll be waiting almost a year to see if it does her any good — the Liberal leadership race won’t be starting until at least the fall.


Canadians are idiots

Well, we went and did it…a Conservative minority. And not even a weak minority — we went and gave Harper a minority government where all three of the other parties need to unite in order to bring it down. Which means we’re probably stuck with him for at least two or three years, and quite possibly a full term.

Of course, Martin’s done. There’ll probably be a Liberal leadership convention in less than a year now, and my bet is that someone like John Manley will end up as the new leader of the federal Liberals, along the theory that they need a younger face to go up against Harper next time. Unfortunately, Manley has all the charisma and leadership potential of a rainbow trout. I’m starting to think that this minority government is going to pave the way to a Conservative majority, which will be a disaster for this country.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this is Jean Chretien’s legacy…the destruction of Paul Martin at the expense of the federal Liberals and of Canada. Chretien held out long enough after removing Martin from cabinet to let the future PM’s popularity of 2000/2001 wear off, but not long enough that the sponsorship scandal could rightly be pinned on him politically.

Beyond everything else, though, I’m most upset with the Canadian voters — we are stuck in this perpetual loop where we never vote for anyone, we only vote against them. Every single change in federal government (and some of the provincial ones, for that matter) for the last thirty years (or more) has been us moronic Canucks voting someone out. And then we get all huffy about the new guy that’s left saying “Holy crap, I won“. It’s as if we don’t care enough about ourselves to do something positive, but we’re always up for a little passive-aggressive voting to really screw ourselves over.



Well, I wanted to be an a$$hole, but all the TV pundit jobs were taken.


I came away wondering, if I was ever to meet Tucker Carlson, if I would have the guts to actually strike him, or if I would wimp out and merely throw a drink in his face. Now Ann Coulter on the other hand…


What is a working family anyway?

Harper is in the news again for offering a tax cut to “working families”. Anyone know what that is, exactly? What kinds of jobs are available to families? Do kids under 5 have to work, or are they exempt? :D


But with a different meaning since you been gone

Well, that didn’t take long. The typical jackassery that we poor fools have come to accept as what constitutes an election campaign has begun in earnest.

Stephen Harper today pledged to cut the GST from 7 percent down to 5 over the next 5 years. Sound familiar? It should…our morally-challenged former prime minister promised to abolish the GST entirely way back in 1993, a couple of years after the Progressive Conservatives introduced the damn thing in the first place.

But it gets better…here’s how Harper explained this promise: “I believe all taxes are bad. Lower taxes are good.”

Wow. It’s hard to believe that we don’t just hand this guy the keys to the kingdom without waiting for that pesky election. With pearls of wisdom like these, who needs all that complicated “planning” or those responsible “commitments”?

In some kind of twisted effort to sabotage all the work gone into making him look less redneck, Harper first pledged to backtrack the equal marriage bill if he were to become prime minister. I’m sure that’s going to win him tons of votes in Ontario and Quebec, where governments are made.

Of course, Martin isn’t exactly winning any points yet, either. So far, all he’s done is bad-mouth Harper and spin stories about how wonderful Liberal rule has been over the last 12 years.

Mr. Martin? Mr. Harper? I’ve got some free campaign advice for you, because you both really seem to need it. It’s pretty simple, actually: Implement a sustainable solution for public health care. Address the rising cost of education. Provide incentives for the accelerated development of “green” technologies. Fund our military appropriately for their commitments.

This election was a waste of time before it even started. A couple of days into the campaign, it sure looks like it won’t be improving anytime soon.


With a blue moon in your eyes

It’s been a while since I posted, but life has been keeping me busy yet again. Since my last posting, I’ve finished the deck frame, and I’ve gotten back to the roofing over my entrances. It’s getting mighty cold out there…

The renovation update aside, what got me posting again was the latest bit of stupidity from our “leaders”. The Grits are all up in arms because the Conservatives (I refuse to call them Tories) used the phrase “organized crime” in reference to the sponsorship scandal. The Liberals have their lawyers sending warning letters to Harper and his cronies, which is of course only for the publicity, since remarks made in the House of Commons are not subject to slander or defamation laws.

I’m not often in agreement with Harper (I prefer my conservative with a small c), but I have to admit, in this case the shoe kinda fits. There isn’t actually a common definition of organized crime, but here’s the RCMP definition (taken from their site):

A “criminal organization” means a group, however organized, that:

(a) is composed of three or more persons in or outside Canada; and,
(b) has as one of its main purposes or main activities the facilitation or commission of one or more serious offences, that, if committed, would likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit, including a financial benefit, by the group or by any one of the persons who constitute the group.

The various components that comprise this legal definition are based on the exclusion of a group of three of more persons that has formed randomly for the immediate commission of a single offence.

South of the border, the FBI has the following to say (taken from the FBI site):

The FBI defines organized crime as any group having some manner of a formalized structure and whose primary objective is to obtain money through illegal activities. Such groups maintain their position through the use of actual or threatened violence, corrupt public officials, graft, or extortion, and generally have a significant impact on the people in their locales, region, or the country as a whole.

By either definition, I don’t really see how the sponsorship scandal doesn’t apply. Have a look at The Globe and Mail’s representation of the parties involved. Definitely more than three people, who do have a formalized structure.

According to the Globe’s summary of Gomery’s initial findings, “a complex web of financial transactions existed among Public Works and Government Services Canada, Crown corporations and communications agencies, involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to a political party in the context of the sponsorship program.” Sounds like graft to me. Also, “there was “clear evidence” of political involvement in the administration of the program.” So we also have corrupt public officials in the mix.

I could go on, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made my point. Just because the Liberals weren’t carrying guns and eating down on Preston Street doesn’t preclude their actions from qualifying as organized crime. Harper is of course using this phrase for political capital, but Martin needs to choose an approach other than denial. This country needs to recover from this shameful interlude and move on, and fighting against the reality of the situation is just going to draw it out even more.


White Phosphorus

Just a small, but pointed, rant here, sparked by the white phosphorus story.

Now, I’m not going to get all bleeding-heart lefty-indignant about the horrors of the ‘weapon’ itself and claim that it should be classified as a chemical weapon or WMD and be banned by some international body. But I do have a problem with the arguments that use semantics to defend its use, pointing to some list that says some weapons are ok and some aren’t (rumours of the use of napalm notwithstanding). Or the arguments that point out burning jet-fuel in a WTC tower as justification.

Here’s my point. Aren’t the U.S. supposed to be the good guys? I asked the same rhetorical question when Abu Ghraib became public and some pro-war types scoffed because the ‘terrorists’ had it coming to them.

You can’t just brand yourself as The Good Guys and then do whatever the hell you want. You’re not The Good Guys because your flag is made of primary colours. You’re not The Good Guys because your God is better than other people’s God. You’re not The Good Guys because you adhere to certain standards of conduct that you find convenient, and argue semantics to keep doing things that may be as horrible as things that are outright illegal. Being The Good Guys means acting that way and showing the rest of the world that what you’re doing is a good idea. The hypocrisy of the WMD justification for war just makes this worse. I realize that WP does not deliver ‘mass’ destruction, but again, let’s not argue exact number of deaths due to skin melting here.

I could be way off here, but I can’t help but come to the conclusion that many pro-war Americans or hawkish Westerners in general actually believe that the terrorists or the insurgents or Muslim kooks from the Middle East overall admittedly think of themselves as The Bad Guys and they’re out to get the prissy American Good Guys, and that neutral parties see it this way too therefore the Americans can behave as they please.

If more people realized that the Muslims that hate America think of themselves as The Good Guys also, and that it is the US who are The Bad Guys (try and put yourself in their shoes and see how easy that would be), then more people might see how pointless this all is.

edit: Oh, and another thing. I don’t get all in a huff when I read stories about messy weapons, prisoner abuse, and civilian deaths, etc (apart from the above rant, obviously, and the occasional ‘told you so’), because I was all in a huff about the war in the first place, largely because this is the kind of shit that happens in war, duh. If war consisted of flag football and tickle fights you’d find far fewer people opposed to it.


I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies

Before I get into my rant, I’ll mention that there are updates on the deck log.

So the first part of the Gomery report has been released, and guess what? It looks like Chretien shares some of the blame for the corrupt sponsorship program that was run from the PMO, by his chief of staff. Our current lame-duck leader is very likely innocent of any wrongdoing, which (if upheld in the final report) would help provide some stability for our stuck-in-the-mud political scene. Hopefully, Canucks will be willing to put the past in the past in next spring’s election, get us to a Liberal majority and let us all move on with our lives.

But wait! Our old power-hungry, fame-seeking, legacy-building ex-prime minister wants none of that. He’s not willing to roll over and take the blame for a program he started. Instead, he’s using his (bewilderingly powerful) influence to cast doubt on the veracity of the Gomery findings, encouraging all of his (confusingly numerous) loyalists to believe that the report is not worth the paper it’s written on. Rather than taking one for the team (which would have no real impact on him, since the Gomery findings incur no civil or criminal liability), Chretien has decided that maintaining his legacy (which doesn’t actually exist anywhere other than in his mind) is more important than allowing Canada to move forward from this embarassing chapter. He even went so far as to directly implicate Paul Martin in holding responsibility for the kickbacks…a move which makes no sense to me, as this also kind of confirms that Chretien himself knew what was going on.

Canadians need to realize that Chretien is a narcissistic loon who can’t handle the idea that anyone might have a harsh word to say about him. Because of this, he invents the appropriate spin to cover his own numerous failings, and expects everyone to fall for it. I truly wonder if he even knows the difference between reality and his media-friendly ramblings anymore. Between his own do-nothing tenure and the impact that his mismanagement has caused (i.e. years of minority governments), Chretien is responsible for allowing this country to shuffle along without any clear direction for over 12 years now, with no end in sight. This man does indeed have a legacy, but it’s a legacy of shame. It’s time Canadians clued in to that.


Everything is super when you’re…

I’m having a strange feeling this morning, one I can’t quite identify. I’ve been reading the big news this morning, and I feel so full of…what’s the opposite of shame? :-)

For once, I will sing the praises of our government. They’ve managed to brave the electoral backlash, particularly in the mid-western provinces, and achieve something that only two other countries in the world (Belgium and the Netherlands) have so far done. Same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, but one that most of the world does not allow, notably our neighbour to the south.

Today, I’m a proud Canadian!


Gay Marriage Mudslinging

The leader of the aptly named federal “Reform… er, Alliance…oh yeah, Conservatives” (good one, Kaveman) seem so desperate to thwart the gay marriage issue that he is now trying to cloud the issue by dredging up pre-Charter history. The Globe and Mail reported on the gay marriage debate today. (I haven’t figured out how to make handy-dandy links in my posts, but the article can be viewed here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20050217/SAMESEX17/National/Idx)

The PM stated that you cannot revert to the traditional definition of marriage without overriding the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Harper responded that ” ‘The Liberal Party of Canada is simply in no position – either past or present – to lecture anyone about Charter rights or human rights.’ ” To support this, Stephen Harper reminds us of all the atrocious, unconstitutional things the Liberal party has done in the past; that it was Liberal governments that interned Japanese Canadians during WWII, that closed Canada’s borders to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, and that implemented the War Measures Act in 1970.

First of all, I have a hard time believing that a Conservative government would not have done exactly the same thing in the first two cases had they been in power, and so I don’t think he’s going to win any moral points there. (I concede, however, that invoking the War Measures Act in response to the October crisis is probably uniquely Trudeauesque).

More importantly, thought, Harper conveniently forgets that it was actually the Liberal Party of Canada that brought us the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Maybe the Liberals ARE in a position to do a little bit of Charter rights lecturing?


I think I thought I saw you try…

And so it begins…

Our minority Liberal government were just dealt their first defeat in Parliament last night. Since it was just a proposal to restructure the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, it wasn’t considered a confidence issue, but I’ll say again what I said last year: it’s only a matter of time (um…but I said it months before I setup this blog, so you may not have known that I said it). I predict we’ll be back at the polls by year-end at the latest.

In fact, it may be even sooner — next week’s federal budget could very well be it, although I don’t think the Reform…er, Alliance…oh yeah, Conservatives will want to be seen as dismantling a government less than a year in power (and thus wasting several months of legislative work). After 18 months or so, they can melodramatically throw up their arms and say “we gave and we gave, but it just won’t work”…


A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies

Ontario Superior Court judge Paul Rouleau has apparently absolved Dalton McGuinty of any responsibility to keep his election promises. In response to a request from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to kill the new Ontario Health Premium, the Honourable Mr. Justice Rouleau responded by saying that anyone who believes a campaign promise is naive about the democratic system.

I’m on the hunt for the text of the ruling, as I don’t want to just take the media’s spin on this ruling as fact. However, I can’t seem to find it in CanLII, and I don’t have access to QuickLaw. I’ll let you know if I manage to get hold of it.

Now don’t get me wrong — I didn’t buy into McGuinty’s shopping list of election promises back in 2003 myself. He was promising everything to everyone, but was quick to state that they might have to reconsider their commitments if they found that the state of the provincial finances was not as expected once they got into power. Translation: they needed a get-out-of-jail-free card, and doing it this way would also make the provincial Tories look bad. Kamelot can attest to my having predicted exactly what came to pass (i.e. McGuinty breaking most if not all of his election promises), seeing as she was living with me at the time and was privy to almost-daily vitriolic diatribes about the way people were falling for McGuinty’s manipulations.

Now, we have a Superior Court judge telling us that we’d be naive to expect anything less. This particular broken commitment wasn’t something said in a meet-and-greet, baby-kissing stop on the campaign trail — no, this was a major component of the Liberal platform in the 2003 election. They worked with the CTF to draw up a contract committing to respect the Taxpayer Protection Act, which states that new taxes shall not be introduced without a referendum approving that tax. To get around this contract, McGuinty’s administration has modified the TPA to exempt the Ontario Health Premium.

(As a side note, the Liberal election platform from the 2003 provincial election is no longer available anywhere online — it has conveniently been removed from distribution. However, here’s where being a pack rat comes in handy; I happen to still have a copy of their document, and have made it available to you. Pages 15 and 166 are of particular relevance.)

Mr. Justice Rouleau, I disagree with your ruling. I believe it is incumbent upon all elected representatives to live up to the commitments they make during their campaigns, for what is a campaign other than an outline of how the candidate will behave if chosen by the electorate? If we cannot trust that the candidates are acting in good faith, on what criteria shall we base our voting decisions? I understand that practicality must be respected, but we must set some standard of honour for our leaders.

In the immortal words of Fox Mulder, we must not tolerate those who have conspired to deceive, inveigle, and obfuscate.


Approaching infamy

Suppose my neighbor’s home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose four or five hundred feet away. If he can take my garden hose and connect it up with his hydrant, I may help him to put out his fire…I don’t say to him before that operation, “Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15; you have to pay me $15 for it.”… I don’t want $15–I want my garden hose back after the fire is over.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
December 17, 1940

That was then. Today, we apparently have to decide if it’s cost-effective to send help to those in need.


Cool, let’s join this thing!

I can’t believe we’re waffling about joining a rocketship playgroup featuring toys that DON’T WORK.

Liberal cynicism aside, I think compromises should be made on this one. The Americans were right pissed about our Iraq snub (despite neo-con pundits whining about how allegedly insignificant we are). The mad-cow “scare” showed that there are economic ramifications for not blindly following US policy, not matter how absurd we think it is.

Where I think our government is going with this, and I think I agree with it, is to join on to the plan, but with plenty of clauses. After all, the Americans don’t need our money, manpower, or technology, they are mainly just looking for moral support on this one (although some of our land could prove useful). I think we need to suck it up and remind them that we really are allies. Unfortunately that means adhering to at least part of Bush’s ego-driven “with us or against us – feared by enemies, worshipped by allies” foreign policy.

So, we should:
- agree to the plan, but promise no money
- agree to weapons-less installations on our territory, but we get to build them
- with their money
- and we staff them too, and allow whatever techies they need
- kinda like NORAD! Remember that?
- we reserve the right to abstain from plans for putting weapons in space, which will happen

Having said all that, this BMD idea of theirs is stupid, and not just because it won’t work. What happened to pre-empting enemies in their backyard and not waiting for them to come to us, eh George? This is all about growing the military-industrial complex, which will create an arms race.


True North Strong and Free…but only if you stay here…

Since this issue was adding to the heat of the Korean grill on Friday night, I thought I’d pass on some of the background info.

I would love to live in a world where peaceful, respectful debate is used to solve every conflict, and I’m willing to make efforts to realize such a world. However, I’m not happy about letting people fend for themselves when they (gasp!) decide to leave the borders of their home country.

I believe the role of a national government is to protect its citizens against harm and injustice to the best of its ability, wherever they may be. Standing behind this principle would of course mean that we must be willing to engage in conflict as a last resort. As it stands, our current military state does not always allow us that option.

I know, I know, believing in the need for a reasonably strong military makes me a bad Canadian in most people’s eyes. Everyone always assumes that I want us to mortgage our future the way our southern neighbours do in some vain effort to control the world. Call me crazy, but I actually believe that there’s a halfway point (maybe even a one-tenth point) between American military excess, and the often-embarassing state our military is in.

Of course, a strong military is only useful when you have the will to use it if needed, and this is where I believe our leadership fails us in the long run.


I am the very model of a modern government department

Well, I’ve moved into a new office on the 16th floor of our building. Since we were on the first floor before I have to say I am not the least bit amused at having to waste my time riding the elevator again. That being said, my actual office space might actually conform to Treasury Board standards, which is much more that I can say for my previous teensy weensy digs.

This is the second time we have moved since January. What’s worse, apparently one of the guys who moved us knows more that we do; this move is not, in fact, permanent.

In addition to being physically moved around, the department is currently undergoing a re-organisation (or a “restructuring”, or maybe, in fact, a “transformation”, depending on who you talk to… Although “transformation” really makes me think I’m going to pupate this winter and emerge as a pretty little butterfly come spring. Boy, having wings will be cool!!! Wait a minute, that’s not what they mean….Sure had me fooled though!). The problem is that my little branch was reorganised (or restructured, or transformed) about 2.5 years ago, and this current round of changes will in many ways wind up putting us right back to where we were before. Why are we doing this again?

Here endeth the lesson, kiddies. Now you know why the civil service can never actually get anything done.


I was brain-dead, locked out, numb, not up to speed

I was listening to some older R.E.M. this evening, and one of the lines from What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? reminded me of something I wanted to blog about, related to BogMan’s post on electoral reform (not quite in response, but more along a parallel track).

I have to admit, I haven’t done as much reading on what’s right and wrong with our system. I know that I’ve found myself pretty jaded and disappointed by the workings of our political machine, a hopefully not-unreasonable response to over a decade of one-party rule in our supposedly democratic country. I could more fully explain what I mean by that, but I don’t think my database server has enough storage space for me to start Chretien-bashing. Hopefully, I’m not the only Canadian frustrated by our do-nothing government, so that others will just know what I mean…or quite possibly you’ve already heard me rant about this, since only my friends and family read this site anyway… :-)

One of the things I thought would be a helpful addition to our election process would be providing an option for abstention on the ballot. Because of my distinct lack of palatable options, I chose not to vote in the most recent Canadian federal election, but there’s no way for anyone to separate my conscious choice from the actions of some poor slob too lazy to get up off the couch. As a result my little protest just gets lumped in with the “voter apathy” numbers, which everyone assumes is due to people not being interested (hence all the new options Elections Canada now provides for voting).

In addition to the more in-depth analysis of our electoral system that BogMan espouses, I’d like to have the option to officially state that I have abstained from an election. Basically, I want it to be visible just how many people took the time to get off the couch and make it known that our political parties are not in any way representing their needs. I want this because I believe that number would be pretty damn high, and it’s just getting hidden inside the omnipresent voter apathy stats.

The line from the song that made me think of all this was, of course, “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy”. Michael Stipe is actually quoting Richard Linklater (he’s the “Richard” referred to in the song).

Or maybe I should just listen to some blink-182 instead…


Ahh… a rant-worthy topic finally surfaces

So Bush Junior is back in. Well from my (liberal minded) perspective, that pretty well sucks rotten eggs, but probably not worth actually ranting about. Way too much of that lefty-venting blowing across the border already. Don’t get me wrong, I think the man is a morally bankrupt, war-mongering, puppet for a technocratic, corporatist world-view, interested only in benefiting his “kind”, which I personally find abhorrent despite participating (at least passively; though to some extent resistively) in what I like to think of as a less-so version thereof. (Okay, mini-rant… But then, if I go down that route I’ll just be angry all day, and as there’re enough other people who are so much more talented at being angry than I am (and who don’t feel the need to get bogged-down by giving voice to their own parenthetical doubts), I’ll desist somewhat.)

So, no, I don’t think I’ll bother ranting about the American electoral system, colleges and all. Parts of it seem screwy, but I’ll leave it to others to provide their hopefully more informed take on just what’s screwy about it (screwiness is in the eye-of-the-beholder?). At least my (vague) impression (at this point) is that the system worked more or less the way it was supposed to (whether we like the way it was supposed to work and/or the results it produced or not). Yes, lots of issues around absentee ballots, voter registration and provisional ballots (and so on) but at lest there seems to be a significant improvement on the 2000 election. And check-out the voter turn out (almost 60%; highest since 1968)! At least the election results (the numbers rather than the win-lose) are more representative. Now if we could just get the side that won to pay attention to the fact that just under half of the voters wanted something else!

That said, I’ll put in my little plug for electoral reform here in Canada: The Law Commission of Canada has an electoral reform project which published it’s Final Report (“Voting Counts: Electoral Reform For Canada”) early last spring. Funny how under Canada’s current system (a “First past the post” system) a party with significantly less than half of the popular vote can win a significant majority of seats in parliament (as was the case with the last Chrétien government, and seems to me similar to the newly elected situation in the States).

Okay, so maybe it’s not so “funny”; this can be seen as a strength, with our system tending to produce majority governments with enough power to actually make things happen: historically a ‘desirable’ thing(?). Personally I value collaboration more (as distinct from compromise!), and feel this approach would be more useful in our current context of social diversity.

The report gives a good primer on various electoral systems, including their impact on the proportion of parliamentary representation to the popular vote, and recommends one system in particular (a “mixed member proportional system” for those of you who care). And yes, the obvious “drawback” is that it results in minority governments most of the time; if that were the case, then they might have to learn how to cooperate like the rest of us did by watching Sesame Street.

…I think there’s also an argument for fixed election dates lurking around in there somewhere, but I’m not sure how I feel about that yet — a gut reaction against American ways; being challenged by the fact that I haven’t even read the article that I just linked to. :(

The Law Commission’s report also deals with other important aspects of electoral reform, but since the proportionality issue is merely technical in nature (essentially about math and the systems for transferring votes into seats in parliament) it’s relatively easy to be clear about and to give clear recommendations around (though whether agreement exists about the values underlying those recommendations is a completely other issue; at least the mechanics of the systems under consideration are fairly straightforward). But then, for other issues –like how to improve women’s and aboriginal representation in parliament– the analysis isn’t as simple (not just math and vote transfer), and so the recommendations come out feeling a little weak. That said, I like the intentions behind the recommendations, and I only wish that they could be more clearly defined, implemented and generally useful.

Ahh… such is the murk of complexity.
Hop in! Wallow a bit!

p.s. On a related note, B.C. is currently in the process of changing their electoral system. (Prompted partly by the massively lop-sided victory in the last election, despite what I think was approximate popular balance?) B.C.’s work in this area (as well as that of other provinces) was part of the input into the Law Commission’s study; B.C. seems to be leading the pack in this aspect of reform here in Canada.

P.p.s. For those interested in more fuel against the US occupation of Iraq, CBC‘s Ideas program (of Monday, November 1) presented “War and Fleece“, a very interesting lecture by Naomi Kline (of No Logo fame) about the US’s on-going attempt to transform Iraq. A similar article, “Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neo-con utopia” (in text rather than audio) appears on the No Logo site.



Damn you Ohio!!