Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 election: Liberals, put money into the 14 Birddog Seats!

Wise money chases low margins
After the last election, I wrote a post that pointed out that these 14 seats were won by the Conservatives by the slim average of 443 votes per seat.

With the Tories ahead of the Liberal Party in fundraising so far, the Liberals could be well advised to set aside a sizeable whack of cash to contest these fifteen low-margin seats.

Better bang for your buck, eh?


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Michael Den Tandt is wrong: Mulcair knows what a mess of pottage is

Den Tandt: Muclair cannot count
So, what will our next federal government look like? Today is the last day of the year 2014, and most commentators have hidden their heads in the sand rather than venture a public guess.

Michael Den Tandt is one of the braver ones.

In an article in the National Post he forecasts a minority government for Stephen Harper, without any attempt by the two opposition parties – which combined will have more MPs than the Tory minority government – to vote him out in a no-confidence vote.

Den Tandt believes that Harper will survive for at least 10 months (which means a new election if he is voted out then), because Mulcair will prop him up in return for “concessions”.

This is Den Tandt’s forecast:

“The reason is simply that the current crop of New Democrats and Liberals viscerally dislike and mistrust each other … Given his druthers, Mr. Mulcair will be inclined to keep Mr. Harper in power, with concessions, rather than allow Mr. Trudeau to road-test himself as prime minister.”

Den Tandt then sees leadership bids being prepared within the Conservative and NDP parties, but not within the Liberal Party.

I don’t think this gives Mulcair enough credit for strategic thinking.

Mulcair only has to look to what happened with the LibDems in the UK, and with Horwath’s NDP in Ontario, to have second thoughts about supporting Harper for a mess of pottage.

It is clear to even the most obtuse observer that Horwath blew it big time when she cooperated with the provincial Tories to bring down the Liberal Government. She did not gain power; nor did she improve the position of the NDP. Instead, the NDP lost its power of voting for the Liberals in return for meaninglful concessions, and has been relegated to the backwaters of Ontario politics. She will most likely go down in history as a seldom-noticed footnote.

As for the LibDems in the UK, they bargained for concessions from Cameron’s Conservatives that really amounted to very little, and neglected to nail down the one thing that really mattered: electoral reform to strengthen their party.

Mulcair can count.

And he knows very well that as long as the first past the post voting system is our way of electing our MPs, then a party can gain power with less than 40% of the vote and can stay in government.

Mulcair’s other example of short-term thinking resulting in illusory gains is that of Jack Layton’s pact with the devil: his bringing down of the Martin-led Liberal government. This resulted in Harper gaining power, and we’ve seen the results for Canada: a retreat into Luddite-like nostalgia, and vicious attacks on our democratic rights.

Mulcair will have learned from these examples. If he does a Layton, or does a Horwath, he will be brushed aside by angry Dippers when his pact with Harper shows little return.

But he stands to gain a step-change in the power equation in Canada, which will forever benefit those who support the NDP at the polls.

It is within Mulcair’s grasp to change the FPTP system of electing our MPs into a more democratic one, involving some form of modified proportional representation.

Such a change will mean that a party such as the NDP will definitely play a major role in all future decisions by any minority government. The Conservatives will most likely remain in minority territory under such a system, as will the Liberal Party (at least for the foreseeable future).

This means the advent of cooperative, reasoned governance in our country, replacing the mean-spirited, divide-and-conquer governance that is the Harper legacy.

I do not expect Mulcair to fail, as Horwath did; I expect him to take advantage of a minority government and go for a game-changing alteration of our political contours.

That way he will not only make history, but be able to exert pressure to gain meaningful policies for his party’s supporters.

We will soon see if Den Tandt is right, or if The Cat is right.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2015 & Santa Claus: Fluid electorate gives all parties a chance

Pollster Nick Nanos has just released a Christmas goodie for the party leaders of the three parties vying to form the next government of Canada.

Based on just one question – how fluid the electorate is – either one of these three parties could form a majority government come the next election, if the election campaign gave them a few breaks. Here’s the percentages:

When asked about whether they would consider or not consider voting for each of the federal parties in a set of independent questions, the Liberals continued to enjoy the highest proportion of accessible voters in the electorate. Fifty three per cent of Canadians would consider voting Liberal, while 45 per cent would consider voting for the NDP, 42 per cent would consider voting Conservative and 26 per cent would consider voting for the Green Party.

And a Merry Christmas to all the leaders. And a thank you from the Cat for making our politics so interesting.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mulcair leads the way to a more democratic Canada

Mulcair: The man who would bring democracy to Canada
Thomas Mulcair, that very capable MP who is leader of the NDP, has publicly committed himself to remedy our democratic deficit, as this post indicates.

Mulcair is to be commended for two things.

First, for signing the Fair Vote Canada declaration (click here for the full text).

Second, for strongly coming out in favour of a modified proportional representation system of electing our federal MPs.

The Fair Vote Canada declaration has this very important commitment:



Friday, December 19, 2014

Mr. Trudeau: Coalitions are what you make them

Let's talk coalition ...
The recent poll showing that most Liberal and NDP supporters would rather have a new government than have a Harper one after the 2015 election, even if this means some form of a coalition, has sparked renewed talk about the possibility of a coalition.

One problem with such talk is that a lack of understanding of our constitutional laws clouds the issue, as Andrew Coyne has pointed out in an interesting article.

And in a recent interview, Justin Trudeau has added to the confusion by slipping into the Either-Or mode of thinking, which sorely limits the permissible discussion of alternatives.

It is very clear from the press reports of his interview that Trudeau does not understand the range of alternatives open to the leaders of parties in Canada, as this report shows:

Justin Trudeau on …

Coalition with the NDP

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2015 election: Coalition gains favour

Which one, or two, of these men will lead Canada?
The end of the Harper government is clear from this latest poll, which shows that the Harper scare tactics of the past have run their course:

Liberal and NDP supporters, meanwhile, have expressed a tepid willingness to consider each other, suggesting that a Liberal-NDP coalition may be feasible should the Conservatives pull off a minority win in 2015. Indeed, unlike in 2011, it appears now that Liberals and NDP supporters are equally likely to say they are certain to be voting. The rise of greater commitment to vote in the centre-left is also coupled with a sharp rise in support for a Liberal-led coalition. These two changed forces suggest a formidable obstacle to a fourth Harper Government.
 Canadians prefer Liberal-NDP coalition to Conservative government

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Oil Price: Has Saudi Arabia gambled and lost?



Is it better to have gambled and lost?

Saudi Arabia is calling the shots in the steep price decline of oil in recent weeks, by refusing to cut its output so as to remove production from the market and increase prices. Why is it doing this?

One possible reason is that it is underestimating the remorseless drive for profits that is the essence of the true capitalist system.

Right now, that drive is coming from smaller companies in the US fracking business:


Theories as to why OPEC didn’t reduce quotas at its meeting in Vienna on Nov. 27 are as cheap and abundant as crude in North Dakota. One holds that the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia want to hurt the Shiites of Iran, who need high-priced oil to finance their government. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

Pipelines and Ottawa’s dropping of the ball: Gordon Gibson nails it

Gordon Gibson: The Nailer
If you are a politician, or work with any political party –federal or provincial or municipal – you should definitely read the succinct, well-written and politically significant article by Gordon Gibson in the Globe & Mail, entitled Enough with pipelines. Refine it.

Gibson summarizes, in one short article, the crux of the national debate about our crude oil pipelines. Here’s some of the article:

There is a win-win-win response to all of this, if any national political party has the savvy to step up. The public opposition is really against pipelines to export bitumen and the response is simple: Refine the bitumen in Canada.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

America versus the European Union: The Precautionary Principle

The European Union has already institutionalized a litmus test that cuts to the core of the differences that separate the new European view of shared risks and vulnerabilities from the older American view of unlimited personal opportunities and individual prowess.
It’s called “the precautionary principle,” and it has become the centerpiece of EU regulatory policy governing science and technology in a globalizing world. Most European political elites, and the public at large, favor it. Far fewer American politicians and citizens would likely countenance it...
The key term ... is “uncertainty.”
When there is sufficient evidence to suggest a potential deleterious impact but not enough evidence to know for sure, the precautionary principle kicks in, allowing regulatory authorities to err on the side of safety by either suspending the activity altogether, employing alternative scenarios,  monitoring the activity to assess causal impacts, or creating experimental protocols to better understand its effects...
The precautionary principle is designed to allow government authorities to respond pre-emptively, as well as after damage is inflicted, with a lower threshold of scientific certainty than has normally been the rule of thumb in the past. “Scientific certainty” has been tempered by the notion of “reasonable grounds for concern.”

From:

The European Dream by Jeremy Rifkin, Penguin 2005

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Forget Mount Rushmore: Richard Nixon’s last laugh

Richard Nixon laid back
Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace, after his Watergate tapes had shown the public just what kind of a man he was. Despite his claim that I am not a crook!, most believed he lied to the Congress, to the public, and probably to himself.

There is no chance that Nixon would ever have his face carved into a granite mountain – like Mount Rushmore – to pay tribute to him.

But to all those who scoff at Nixon and his legacy, a word of caution: there is a chance that Mother Nature has on her own done her best to preserve Nixon for posterity.

How so?

Well, I’ve just returned from touring the Joshua Tree National Park in California, and there I discovered something remarkable. President Richard Nixon might have pulled a fast one on all of us!

We were driving along the Keys View Road in the Park, towards Hidden Valley, when I spotted Nixon’s Revenge.

A large rock formation reared up on the side of the road. As we passed it, the side view of the rock showed the profile of Richard Nixon. No Ifs, Buts or doubts about it: it was the spitting image of Tricky Dick.

Saddle Rocks, aka Nixon's Revenge
Known as Saddle Rocks, the largest single rock formation in Joshua Tree National Park rises some 600 feet from the valley floor, just below the west flank of Ryan Mountain.
Saddle Rock has three summits – they make up the heavy chin of Nixon, his most prominent facial feature (the long, oddly shaped nose), and his prominent forehead. Rock climbers call these the Lower, Middle and Upper Summits.

When you compare the various photos of Nixon in this post with Saddle Rocks, you will note the similarities that struck me.

Now, every time someone rides past that mountain, they just might hear a soft, disdainful chuckle emanating from who knows where ...


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