Friday, December 16, 2005

Canada's leaders English debate: Election 2006

The most glaring gaffe in the Election debate was how Paul Martin answered the question from a disabled women who doesn't work: how would she benefit from income tax cuts as opposed to the GST cut, which would benefit her since she spends money? Martin said this in response:

My government "provided a substantial tax cut for the middle class and the less fortunate." "Because that is much more effective and much fairer to reduce personal income taxes, rather than reducing the GST because it leaves a lot more money in the pockets of tax payers."

Wrong answer. She doesn't have an income. Therefore, Martin needs one detail to show that the income tax cut "much fairer" to her? Perhaps since there isn't any. This was a huge mistake in my view. A lot of people don't have a large enough income to get benefits, especially "the less fortunate." What about young people? Disabled? Retirees? Income tax are not bad by any means. But answering the question in that manner is playing dodgeball.

If you think I should be talking about Harper re: same-sex marriage, think again. His position has been clear for years and years. It hasn't changed. Can we let it go? Besides, most Canadians agree with Harper's position on same-sex marriage according to a poll this past weekend. Can we stop calling it controversial?

The Globe and Mail discusses the leaders debate in Canada

This conversation is interesting, if not only for an insight into the political mindset of the Globe and Mail editorial board. Do you notice a common theme in their comments?
Harper managed not to look scary or sarcastic but failed to break his image as a somewhat detached and over-rational type."

"Mr. Harper was too bland."

"Mr. Harper has made civility look boring."

"Paul Martin is coming alive in this debate -- and it is working."

"Martin's words were ringing. I only heard a quick clang from Harper."

"Harper is looking rather wan in contrast to Martin's passion in the last few questions -- he's SO cool and rational that he often seems robotic."

"Martin gives a great, passionate response to the unity question -- his best minute yet."
Besides the usual pro-Liberal rhetoric of the Globe, what you have here is a bunch of media elites trying to fit into the shoes of a so-called "average Canadian." Further, their comments are so feeling-based. Call me rational here, but what about the actual content of what they are saying? The only time the editorial board is vigilant about substance is reiterating the same-sex marriage debate. People, Harper and Martin have said nothing new over the past year. Let it go. Honestly. Do we need any more stories like this?

But back to the average Canadian ideal that these elites try to stick their shoes into. Harper "failed to break his image" and "Harper is too bland" really go to the root of their quest: to speak for the average Canadian.

I say, speak for themselves. They are smart and education. Talk about the damn content. Who is making better points? Who is lying? The most obvious omission is Paul Martin saying he never wanted to send troops to Iraq. Well, we are already in Iraq. Maybe his right arm doesn't know what his left arm is doing.

Paul Martin: "I really think Canada should get over to Iraq as quickly as possible," (North Bay Nugget, April 30, 2003)".

Yet, even this issue is just an issue of veracity: it is still not about the best ideas. Who is making better arguments about children, etc.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Canada Election Poll: Ipsos Reid / Strategic Counsel

Perhaps Michael Ignatieff is successful converting waves of Canadians to the Liberal party. Perhaps it is just pre-Christmas cheer. Whatever it is, the Liberals are still dominating Ontario. The latest poll seat aggregation, between the latest 2 Ipsos polls and the latest Strategic Counsel poll from last night indicate that the Liberal fortunes are dwindling everywhere except for Ontario. If the Conservatives captured as many seats in Ontario as the Liberals are projected to capture (74) in this latest aggregate, they would nearly form a majority government.

Here are the latest polling numbers:

Liberals: 118
NDP: 28
Bloc: 67

The national stage has surely changed with the Bloc being in power. Who knows if we will ever have a majority Liberal government again for some time with the strength of those numbers. On to the debates!

Ontario passes law to fix election dates

My first thought upon discovery of the news was that this is good news - just a little more time and the feds will follow suite, heeding the prophets in the parl who speak for the end of arbitrary election dates. And it has the favor of the plebs too. Popular support for fixed election dates have risen from 54% in 2000 to 81% in 2004.

But as the article by Don Dessord points out, fixed-elections dates challenge the fundamental principle of responsible government in Canada. As an essential feature of the American Congressional system which relies on the principle of the separation and balance of powers, fixed-election can be confused perhaps as importable into Canada to help level the field for fair competition.

But features of responsible government that would be compromised by fixed-election dates would include votes of non-confidence and the role of the Governor General.

So why is the notion of fixed elections appealing? I think Dessord has a good answer and some interesting suggestions:
I believe what the public really objects to is not the fact that election calls are unpredictable, but that the party in power holds an unfair advantage and some elections are not fair contests. Therefore, measures that improve the competitive nature of elections would go a long way towards alleviating public dissatisfaction.

There are many ways to do this, though a full discussion is beyond the scope of this paper. Some form of proportional representation, for example, would help. So would allowing more free votes in Parliament. More free votes might convince citizens their MPs matter, and so they might think elections matter more too. There are many other problems with our parliamentary system that need to be addressed as well, as people like Donald Savoie have so well identified. But the convolutions necessary to fix election dates strike me as requiring far too much effort for far too little improvement, and may very well make things much worse.

'He's homeless, just forget it.'

This is what Christine Wellstead was told yesterday in Vancouver when she asked for help to quench the flames of a homeless man on fire. I wonder what Christine Wellstead's opinion about immigrants are. CanWest has details...

Teachers versus Priests

Like the State versus the Church in attrocities committed against humanity, the Church seems to be the one that gets more flack. While people will question the idea of the Church and perhaps calling it fundamentally into question, the idea of the State seems to carry on quite fine. At least this is my perception.

I wonder what one would find if one were to compare attitudes towards priests in child abuse cases to teachers in child abuse cases?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Globe and Mail: Crown to appeal B.C. ‘gangs' ruling

The Crown will appeal B.C. ‘gangs' ruling.

Here is a case where I do not side with the crown. I do not share a particular fondness to gangs. I would like to see the elimination of criminal gangs altogether. Yet there are problems with the way the government is going about stopping them. And let me argue, I think their solutions are a bit myopic.

1. The freedom of association, the ugly swan in comparison with the other freedoms (ie. of religion, speech, etc.), is trampled by the government's definition of "criminal organization." If people are allowed to freely assemble, that includes the right to assembling under an organization with loose or unloose memberships.

2. A gang is not criminal or un-criminal, just like a corporation is not criminal or uncriminal. Any body of people that come together under an organization is just that - a body. The corporation - or gang - itself is merely a legal fiction: an entity that is ascribed status. Following the government's logic of criminal organizations as an organization which habitually breaks the law, it puts the government in quite a tight spot.

After all, the government is perhaps the premiere prominent law breaker. Adscam notwithstanding, the government frequently coerces people to obey laws which are not actually legal - courts frequently strike down laws which go contrary to the law. Ought we call the legislature or Parliament "criminal" when it does that? Ought we prosecute legislators for passing laws which get struck down?

No. We should not. I am arguing from the position that the government's logic leads to an absurd result. Belonging to a criminal organization cannot be considered a crime any more than being a party of the Liberal party or Nazi party ought to be considered a crime. People individually break the law. People individually need to be accountable to the law. (Yes, there are laws governing corporations. They are not above the law; corporations get punished collectively for their sins).

3. The rule of law demands that s. 467.13 of the criminal code be struck down. It is of no force or effect precisely because it violates the rule of law. The rule of law demands guidance. Vagueness cannot guide. Therefore, if "criminal organizations" is a vague term, it ought to not be enforcable since it cannot guide people. For instance, ought people belonging to the Liberal party, an arguably criminal group, be punished? No. Because the section of the Code is so vague that its application may lead to wildly broad and arbitrary results, which violate the rule of law. No reasonable person can be expected to know that joining the Liberal party might actually be criminal. The section itself lends no credence to this interpretation. Yet, it could be construed that way under its vague definition. If criminal organizations is unduly vague, and I think it is, then the judge had no choice but to strike the section down.

The most positive counter-argument to this, I suppose, is for the Crown to rely on the previous jurisprudence of the court, which has stated that a section of law is vague when no one can debate what it means. If there is debate on what the law means, then it is not vague. Let me just say that I think this jurisprudence is terrible, because it makes no sense. Yet, if the Crown is to have a hope in convincing the Supreme Court, they might have to argue that the section is quite debatable.

Refreshments, like beer and popcorn... and victory dancing

"Don't give people $25 a day to blow on beer and popcorn." said Scott Reid, the communications director for Paul Martin, in response to Stephen Harper's proposed "choice in child care" plan which would have parents receive about $25 a week for children under 6.

As Stephen Taylor points out, Scott Reid buys a lot of "refreshments" with tax dollars from establishments that specialize in booze. Here is just the beginning of the list posted on Taylor's site and populated with public information available from the Privy Council Office.

Scott Reid's hospitality expenses for 2005 (Jan 1 - Jun 15)...

New Year's "Dinner meeting" at D'Arcy McGee's: $22.71
January 3rd "Dinner Meeting" at Heart & Crown: $33.13
January 10th "Dinner Meeting" at Lieutenant's Pump: $33.10
February 1st "Dinner Meeting" at The Works: $53.00
February 4th "Dinner Meeting" at Royal Oak: $93.70
February 8th "Dinner Meeting" at Brixton's British Pub: $28.39
Perhaps Scott Reid doesn't trust parents, because he doesn't trust himself.

And now someone's spotted that one of these expenses listed as a "Dinner meeting to discuss media briefing" at Suite 34, a bar lounge in Ottawa, on May 19 2005 was the same day the budget vote passed, the same week when Belinda Stronach crossed the aisle, and the same night that she and Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff could be found dancing atop a speaker at... Suite 34. The The Toronto Star has the details for that evening. Scott Reid appears to have been the only person to have claimed that evening as an expense (see 1).

Worth investigation:
  1. Did anyone else expense the evening?
  2. What are Canadian attitudes towards the expenses claimed by government officials? What are the norms in other countries?
  3. Do Canadians trust themselves and do they believe that the government should trust the people?
The significance:
  1. If there isn't much reaction to Mr Reid's comments about parents, I may form the opinion that Canadians either do not care for the extra $25, think the government would spend it better than themselves, apathetic towards those with small children, and/or that Canadians have a tendency to believe that the government is more trustworthy than families.
  2. The triumphalism of people who barely just win a vote of confidence is fascinating. Almost as if it is the last days on earth. Like the night Al Gore after conceding the 2000 election "stomped and gyrated" past the midnight hour, the image of the sweat showing through his shirt spurs on my contemplation of the end and the dance. As I imagine what Stronach and Murphy dance on the speakers and Reid looks on, I wonder if in their minds tonight was the future.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Paul Martin: my prediction

"Paul Martin's Liberals" may be riding high in the polls. But that is for only one strong reason, I gather. His face has been out of the limelight.

My theory is that the more he is highlighted in the press, the papers, TV, etc. the more people dislike the man. The same may be true for Stephen Harper. But I would wager that the more Martin is out there, the more people remember how insincere they find him.

Personally, I think Jack Layton could use some visibility out there. Let's see what the debates do. If Jack can come off with temperence and reasonable without attacking the Conservatives, I think he could really improve his share of the vote.

New Canada Election Poll: Ipsos and Strategic Counsel / Globe and Mail / CTV

The latest poll aggregation shows some shifts in seats between the Liberals and the Conservatives. It appears that Conservatives are redistributing their growth in key Ontario. The Bloc remains strong. The NDP appears stagnant.

With the recent lack of polling, it seems evident that polling companies are waiting until the debates to do major polling. I suspect Thursday's debate will cause some of these numbers to fluctuate - for a time, anyway.

Anyway, here are the latest polling seat predictor based on the lastest IPSOS and Strategic Counsel / Globe and Mail / CTV polls.

On Tolerance, Crime and Immigration in Canada as compared with Japan

According to a new CP report, Canada will rank 43rd in a count of countries that have female representatives as a percentage of the elected representatives. Under 21 percent of parliament is expected to be female after the upcoming elections. That puts Canada behind Ethiopia. Not to say that Canada has anything over Ethiopia, but Canadians do seem to pride themselves in thinking they live in the most equitable place on the planet.

This news relates to the previous post, in which my colleague raises a provocative, yet valid question. Is there a relationship between immigration and violent crime in a country? A question he ties back into a thought on the broader theme of tolerance and the cult that follows it and keeps it sacred.

The number 43 challenges those who think god is in the precious box. My colleague says tolerance hinders the proper assessment of problems, which for him evidently begin by conducting a more comprehensive census. The number 43, however, suggests tolerance is nothing.

As for the relationship of crime to immigration, Japan makes for an interesting comparison to Canada. First, there are critics of the close relationship between the police and the media and their reporting of violent crime (see: 1, 2 - 'the crime of crime reporting' in Japan). While there is evidence to support the argument that aliens tend to comprise much of the crime (see 3), in the context of the media-police relationship this may make the criminals as much as the victims of domestic policy on immigrants as the victims are victims.

Second, Japanese intolerance only gives it short-term security in a globalized world. The Japanese workforce is shrinking and the number of people that will need to be employed to service the grey market increasing. By 2030, there is predicted to be 2 people in the workforce per retiree in the country with the population heading back under the 100 million mark from 127 million people (see 4, 5). And while awareness of the problem has drawn attention to immigration, the reality of a backlash against foreigners is considered very possible (see 6).

The complaint against Japan culminates in drawing out a similarity between it and Canada and not so much in contrasting the two. Both share in their lack of tolerance - though certainly not to the same extent, but emphasizing similarities in intolerance may help Canadians ask hard questions of themselves rather than point the finger at immigrants.

And though women may not be tolerated (or encouraged or want to be) in parliament, and though the Prime Minister goes for banning handguns over listening to the affected (see 7), and though separatism is still alive and well despite what the new Gov Gen says in her investiture speech; almost 80 percent of Canadians like immigrants (see 8) and that's a warm feeling for an immigrant like myself. Tolerance isn't the problem. A shallow tolerance is. Tolerance deepened through greater personal and collective introspection and hospitality is worth pursuing. There's even security in it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Canada: the handgun ban

Is it so hard to admit the obvious?

Today on CKNW, Peter Warren and his guest chose political correctness over an ugly truth. To demonstrate how absurd this choice was, I encourage you to listen to the archives at CKNW on Sunday, Dec. 11 at 11:30am. Essentially, an astute reader asked, "is it a coincidence that Japan has the lowest crime rates in the Industrialized world, considering the fact that they also have the lowest immigration rates in the world?"

The stuttering by Warren's guest could be heard echoing around Vancouver. Confronted with facts that went against his value system of tolerance and multiculturalism, the guest, a doctor, was at a loss for words: "I don't know what to say to that." Peter Warren did, however: "it tars the feathers of every immigrant coming into this country." Sure it does. But the question is, is it justified?

Are ethnic people more likely to commit crimes than euro-centric people? Are a larger portion of gun crimes a result of an immigrant influx?

Such questions are taboo in Canada. They do not get asked seriously. But even more shocking, people do not deserve an answers. People scream that the premise is anti-tolerant, so one must ignore the evidence.

It is odd, isn't it, how tolerance and pluralism only extends to the outward acceptance of tolerance. As far as I am aware, we can poll people on their wealth according to race/ethnicity. But not their crime rates. In Canada, that is taboo.