Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Guardian meets Canada's 2006 Election

A new article in the Guardian by Martin Kettle has some very interesting outsider observations about Canada's election.

Canada is not merely not a page turner but even a socially acceptable synonym for boredom among otherwise apparently open-minded people.

Synonym for boredom? Ouch. Thankfully for the British, they are quite interesting. And so are their stories:

Perhaps an anecdote is in order. There is no shortage of these about Canada: such as the one about the competition among American publishers to find the most unsaleable book title of the season, won by a volume entitled Canada: Our Friendly Neighbour to the North. Apocryphal? Maybe. But here's a story that I know to be true. Flying to Vancouver with his wife for a Commonwealth conference, the late Sir Denis Thatcher drifted down the plane to hobnob with the press. Standing in the aisle, a generous gin and tonic in hand, and looking out over the prairie below, the First Husband turned to the hacks and pronounced: "Y'know what Canada is? Canada is full of fuck all." Needless to say, no one reported a word.

(laughter). But take note of the author's analysis of the current political landscape:

This Canadian general election is interesting. We need to know about it. Not just because there is likely to be a change of government in a major country, but because the trajectory of recent Canadian politics has strong echoes for Britain.

Strong echoes eh? What kind of echoes? Let's continue to read. Now, in a nutshell, is Canada's election context in a nutshell. Nutshell, nutshell, nutshell. Nutschell:

...the meat of the January 23 contest is whether this marks the end of a 13-year period of centre-left rule by the Liberals - in some respects the equivalent of Tony Blair's Labour party. The Liberals had nine great years in government, led by the crafty Jean Chr├ętien, who won three general election majorities before he stepped down in 2002. Throughout that period Chr├ętien's presumed successor was his successful finance minister of nine years, Paul Martin. But when Martin finally took over it all began to fall apart. Seeking his own mandate, Martin could only scrape in at the head of a minority government in 2004. Now he has been forced to call a further election. The latest poll has the Liberals trailing behind the Conservatives. Back in 1993 the Conservatives were swept from power in a landslide that left them with just two seats in parliament. It was the end of the Conservatives, they said. But in January 2006 a new young leader called Stephen Harper is poised to lead the Conservatives back into power, possibly in a minority government with Quebec separatist support.

Do I make myself clear? I'd say that these are events worth a few minutes of any serious person's attention. But even if our press is not paying much heed to what's happening there this month, it's a fair bet that for our political parties Canada has for once become a page turner.

Stephen Harper gaining off Quebec separatist support? Does he mean with the BQ? Or does the writer mean with separatists who are going to vote for the Tories? Presumably the former, I reckon. For the day when separatists vote en masse for the Tories is the day Harper gets a majority government.

Overall, it is an interesting piece. One that you ought to read - even if it does take a while to get into it. Personally, I don't think the Canadian election deserves more than a footenote in the British press. I mean, why does it deserve more? However, come a Conservative government on Jan. 24, it will be big news. I mean, big news all over the world I am guessing. Bush and Blair will have found a friend - one to bring in the Anglo-conservative fold of current Conservative leaders. It may just be like the 80s all over again.

Harper and Martin's debate effect in Quebec

Remember Martin's shining moment in the first debate, when Martin declared that he would not let Duceppe take his country away from me? Judging from the numbers in Quebec and the rest of the country, it had little political effect. In fact, Martin's phoniness might have even had an opposite effect. See Harper leads Martin in Quebec. Take a look at this graph from the SES Research poll (provided by Andrew Coyne).

As Andrew notes, "Martin's slide has a noticeable starting point: December 15-16...What happened December 15-16? The debates."

The Globe and Mail editorial board said of that special moment in the debate:

Sean Fine, 9:36 p.m.: That's better. "This is my country." (Paul Martin) now we're talking. Marcus Gee, 9:37 p.m.: Bravo Martin: You're not going to take my country away with some trick, Duceppe. Great, stirring stuff.

Looks like it made an impresson in these elites, but fell flat and made little impression on Quebecers and English Canadians.

In hindsight, the Globe and Mail editorialists pretending to pose as average Canadians just didn't match Canadians' perceptions of the event. This is what they said at the time:
"My impression is that Martin ... had by far the best moments -- particularly his ''you won't take away my Canada" attack on Duceppe. Harper managed not to look scary or sarcastic but failed to break his image as a somewhat detached and over-rational type."

Well at some point he started to look less scary. According to this graph, it was during the debates.

As I said after the first debate regarding this Globe analysis, "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."

Harper's tax plan

Stephen Harper announced a new round of tax relief. Here is how the media is spinning it. So far it is pretty much the same: HARPER WILL RAISE TAXES (that's reading into the headlines). Notice how CTV is the only one that really reported Harper's actual announcement.

CBC News: Harper boasts of better tax plan

CTV News: Harper proposes tax reductions for charities

Globe and Mail: Tories to repeal low-income tax cuts

Toronto Star: Harper says he'd repeal Liberal income tax cuts

National Post/Edmonton Journal/Vancouver Sun: Harper would repeal Liberal tax cuts

Calgary Sun: Harper says he'd repeal current income tax cuts

A Canadian election carnival

Take that Jeffrey Simpson: the RCMP are damned if they do, damned if they don't (

Why my head is in the clouds: Liberal blogger (oops, Liblogger) Jason Cherniak believes in partisanship at all costs (

Paul Wells reckoned Paul Martin's announcement would be "interesting." Sorry folks. Martin was just talking about water (Inkless Wells). Greg Staples thinks that Paul Martin looks like he has just woken up 5 minutes before the speech (Political Staples).

I can't read any of it, but here is the Bloc Quebecois blog.

CTV has some
behind the scenes photos of the election.

It looks like those attack ads have stopping being the news itself. Instead, the polls are the news itself. Speaking of polls, the new IPSOS poll shows the Conservatives with a 50 seat advantage. If you are a Rhinocerosparty supporter, ouch.

Speaking of polls, this latest controversy can't help the Liberals. Or Pierre Pettigrew for that matter.

Is Harper a changed man? That is what the Toronto Sun asks. Speaking of changs, read the latest Globe and Mail editorial. Are they actually complementing Harper's Conservatives? This bold fellow deserves a lot of complement. He saved a drowning person's life.

I suspected as much. Here is proof that the Conservative tax plan has not been fully released ("The Tories have also said that their own tax package has not yet been fully announced."). For those that are wishing (cough, Andrew Coyne), the Tories would cut income taxes, take note. It is not surprising, since the Conservatives (and its former predecessors) have been strong on tax cuts for years.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Election Canada: Conservatives take momentum

The numbers continue to be shocking: in the latest Strategic Poll, Conservatives are ahead by two points. But even more shocking is the perceived momentum:
  • Conservatives: 45 per cent (+22)
  • Liberals: 17 per cent (-16)
  • NDP: 8 per cent (-2)
  • Bloc Quebecois: 6 per cent (-3)
  • Greens: 2 per cent (unchanged)
The gap between the Tories and Grits is almost 30 percent. 30 percent! That is more than any comparable gap this campaign.

The latest EKOS poll shows the Tories also have a lead: this time only a 4 point one.

The debate could solidify Harper's lead and possible Tory government. The big question is: will these numbers continue to hold? Or will it crumble?

Given the number of investigations into the Liberals and noticable lack of ideas and trustability, one has to wonder whether the Liberals are down for the count.

Will Michael Ignatieff stick around in opposition benches

With recent polls showing the Liberals down as much as 6 points nationally, it is only natural to question Michael Ignatieff's stake in the election.

If the Conservatives form a minority government, what of Michael Ignatieff if he wins his seat? Is he prepared to be a member of her Majesty's Opposition?

When Michael Ignatieff was plunked down in an Ontario riding, it was almost assumed that he would be assured a spot in cabinet - even perhaps Foreign Minister. Now, with the rising possibility of a Liberal opposition, Igantieff may have to settle to be an opposition critic.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the answer is no. For example, he has expressed his desire to return to Harvard if he loses. One can only speculate what he will do, since such a possibility may not be factored into his decision to run for the Liberals. Here is what may happen:

  • He could cut and run back to Harvard, saying "politics was a great experiment, but I belong in the (American) classroom.
  • He could cut and run back to Toronto, because he wishes to guide Canadian education to higher standards.
  • He could stay in opposition and teach at Harvard. It would be a lot of juggling. But I think this option would really show where his loyalties lie.
  • He could stay in opposition and wait for an opportunity to take the Liberal leadership mantle. This is a likely option, assuming that the knives will be out to get Martin if he loses the 2006 election. He would, almost instantaneously, become the frontrunner. The question is, does he have the leadership support network that can rival the secret ones already being formed in the Liberal party by longtime backbencher MPs.
As Ignatieff says, "This is politics; it's a contact sport." We will soon see if Ignatieff plans to buckle up or run away. The real question is, can Ignatieff's pride handle sitting in opposition benches if he wins his seat?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Canada Election 2006: New polls

There are a number of new polls out today showing the Conservatives in the lead. But will this translate into any new seats? My estimates say no. In the latest seat projections, the Conservatives only have about a 8 seat edge on the Liberals (CONS 114 LIBS 106 NDP 21 BLOC 67). This is likely for a few reasons:

1. The numbers in Quebec for the Conservatives are rising. This contributes to higher national numbers, but no new seats.

2. Support is growing in the West, where the Conservatives have reached a virtual saturation point. There are few left to be gained. The notable exceptions include 2 in Edmonton that are up for grabs, and several in the Lower Mainland which may or may not tily Tory.

3. The Tories have not gained in Ontario. Despite the rest of the country shifting Tory, Ontario has not changed much for the past few weeks. It will be interesting to see how things progress down the stretch.

Here are the new polls that I aggregated (total sample size 4200):
- Leger Marketing
- Strategic Counsel
- SES Research

Stay tuned for more aggregates and tracking polls.

Paul Martin's contributions

Paul Martin's 2003 leadership contributions are interesting to look at.

Election Canada 2006: Harper's new gun-crime policy (via the Globe and Mail): unconstitutional?

Harper's new gun-crime policies may offend the Charter of Rights. First the story from the Globe and Mail:

A Conservative government would undertake a sweeping series of reforms aimed at toughening Canada's justice system, starting with imposition of mandatory minimum prison terms of between five and 10 years for people convicted of major firearms offences, Stephen Harper said today.

The Conservative plan also calls for a mandatory sentence of five years for possession of a loaded restricted or prohibited weapon such as a handgun.

Let me be one of the first, if not the first, to suggest that Harper's new proposed "tough on crime" legislation could be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

I personally find minimum sentences appealing. In fact, the idea of imprisoning people for 5 years for possessing a handgun does not bother me. But it may offend the Charter.

There is a little section (s.12) in the Charter that reads, "Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment."Under historical evidence, this right was to prevent treatment and punishment via torture or prolonged agony.

However, the Supreme Court of Canada, in R. v. Smith [1987], ruled that a minimum mandatory sentence (of 7 years for narcotics possession) violated s.12 of the Charter. As Justice Wilson put it,"
"The arbitrary nature of the mandatory minimum sentence is fundamental to its designation as cruel and unusual under s. 12 of the Charter. The seven-year minimum sentence is not per se cruel and unusual but it becomes so because it must be imposed regardless of the circumstances of the offence or the offender."

It seems that a punishment "so excessive as to outrage standards of decency" would warrant a contravention of s. 12.

Which begs the question, is Harper's proposal against the Charter?

- It may indeed be. It could be argued that possessing an illegal gun does not justify 5 years in prison. In fact, I would be surprised if such a law holds up in Canada's Supreme Court. There are many circumstances where possession of a firearm can get tricky: finding an illegal gun in a car owned by a person unrelated to the gun, a person who used to have an illegal weapon but whose fingerprints are still on it, etc. But even besides all these points, the policy remains to be debated: is 5 years for gun possession cruel and unusual? Is it too excessive?

- One way for Harper to actually test such a tricky law is submit the question to the Courts in terms of a reference. Such a measure is terribly underused by Parliament. The reason such a reference exists - and should exist - is to provide Canadians with laws that are consistent with each other. Otherwise, people could be paying a price of liberty (ie. being in jail for a law that should be illegal) for sloppy legislation.

The rule of law requires clarity and consistency in order for humans to plan their actions and realize their bounds of liberty. Harper's plan, in legal not political terms, needs to be tested by the Courts. It may just be unconstitutional.

CTV Election 2006 - Paul Martin campaign on the ropes? - Election 2006, Correspondent Robert Fife:

"When we arrived in Calgary tonight, all our BlackBerries went off, and all the journalists who are paying $10,000 a week were furious.

"Scott Reid (Martin's director of communications) had to come to the back of the plane and he got a tongue-lashing from the journalists who wondered why we're covering this campaign when we could sit in Ottawa and wait for the leaks to come out.

"This is really quite a serious setback for the Liberals because a) it shows they can't run a campaign properly, and secondly, it shows a huge announcement, a big, important announcement on education that the prime minister was going to use has been upstaged by a leak from the Liberals."

Asked what that said about the famous Liberal Party discipline, Fife said: "Well, there is no 'famous Liberal Party discipline' on this campaign. It has been one series of disasters after another, starting from on Monday where he (Martin) went to a bagel shop on a day when the campaign was supposed to start with something serious and positive. And then he gave a scrum outside a bus -- it was so strange to see him doing that with Harper, in contrast, looking so prime ministerial when he was making announcements on Monday.

"And it's been like this through the whole thing -- although he's obviously being dogged, obviously, by the income trust scandal, which is casting a real pall over this campaign. It's sort of like you're feeling like an Irish poet in a dark bar on this plane."

Edmonton women fined $632 for passing stopped police car

The grace period for the two month old legislation in the province of Alberta that requires drivers to slow down when passing emergency vehicles, tow trucks with flashing lights, or when passing through construction zones has expired.

An Alberta woman discovered the new law when she was fined $632 for passing an unmarked cop car that had pulled over a speeding vehicle. She was driving under the posted speed limit, but over double the limit required by the new legislation. CBC Edmonton has the report.

  1. This may actually be the best way to run a marketing campaign for new laws. Fine people, let it hit the media, and then have a judge reduce the fine (eliminate it altogether for the lady - I hope).

  2. As for this new law reducing injuries in the case of pulled over cars. I wonder if demanding by law for cars to reduce their speed to 60km/h on Albertan highways of posted limits of 110km/h will not actually cause greater danger to drivers than the previous situation did for police officers.

Kinsella: NDP and Conservative war rooms "so superior" to Liberal's

"On all of the key war room indicators - speed, accuracy, volume, resulting media coverage - the Grit effort is pitiful," says war room vet Warren Kinsella.

New poll shows Conservatives dominating

The new EKOS poll shows the Conservatives with 36% and the Liberals with 30%.

The Globe and Mail: Martin apologizes for Chinese head tax

What won't Martin say?

Liberals announce post-secondary education plan - pure titillation

"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."

As Paul Martin's campaign is in the process of being derailed, the Liberals have announced a $8 billion dollar aid package to students. Unfortunately, this is the equivelent of a trainer dangling a piece of meat near a lion's mouth one too many times. Instead of taking the meat, students are likely to bite the hand that feeds it. Why, you may ask?

Like the immigration tax elimination, the Liberals are simply promising to undo their bad ideas. There is nothing wrong with that, in principle. In practice, however, these promises serve to reinforce people's negative perceptions of promise-breaking politicians. For instance, that national day care idea? 12 years old.

NOW THE LIBERALS HAVE ANNOUNCED $8 billion dollars in new post-secondary funding. That was so last election.

Maybe Paul Martin was distracted by all his different 'top priorities', but Martin has been not exactly been education's saviour. You might recall that Martin cut over $5 billion dollars in education transfer payments to the promises since 1993.

In 2004,
"Martin said that he will divide the Canada Social Transfer again to create a separate transfer for post-secondary education. He also said that the value of the transfer should “eventually” reach “seven to eight billion dollars.”

Ian Boyko, National Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students, was skeptical about this promise. “Students need this promise in writing."

He was rightly skeptical. The last time Martin mentioned post-secondary education was during the last election campaign. Will students see this latest effort as any more than shameless pandering? History, memory of human agency, might not be so kind to Martin this time. Perhaps Martin is banking on people forgetting. When you promise so much and deliver so little, it gets a little tiring. Sure, the education proposal deserves a fair debate.

As one professor put things generally, it titillates but fails to satisfy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Globe and Mail: Campaign gets nastier as Harper swings at Martin

The Globe and Mail: Campaign gets nastier as Harper swings at Martin

"The fact is Mr. Martin lived a good deal of his professional life under the flags of other countries and Mr. Martin constantly tried — and was successful, I gather — at avoiding paying taxes in Canada. That's the record," says Stephen Harper.

It will be interesting to see the Liberal response to this accusation. And no, I don't mean these responses on the Globe and Mail website from Liberal members...I mean the lines that Martin's advisors give Paul Martin. I suspect Martin will ignore the accusations as much as he can. If I were Duceppe, Layton, and especially Harper, the debate is a perfect place to attack Martin on the subject of tax evasion. I am not saying that it was wrong or immoral of Martin to move his assets off shore. But it sure isn't easy to defend such a decision when you are a prime minister - "if you know taxes are too high in Canada to leave your assets here, why aren't you doing anything about it?" is the question I have.

PS: Speaking of those Globe and Mail comments, I would say that they are a good idea in theory. Like a blog, comments are a good thing. But reading them after I read the news article is like going from polish to poison. Typically they are ridiculously partisan and combative. Thankfully, we don't have that problem at the Pew. But if we did, I suspect we might utilize a little thing called moderation, something that probably ought to take place on the Globe news pages.

PPS: ...still waiting for the campaign to get 'nasty.'

Ontario seeks more powers for premier

Ontario community safety minister, Monte Kwinter, is framing his Bill 56 as a precautionary measure in lieu of a potential influenza pandemic.

By way of amending the Emergency Management Act, the Employment Standards Act, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, Bill 56 would grant the Premier administrative powers over any district or municipality together with the power to restrict popular moblity, force labour for the premier, close any institutions (including businesses and hospitals), remove private property, and freeze prices of goods.

A state of emergency has several time limits, the provincial cabinet can extend it for 14 days after 14 days have expired and the provincial legislature can extend it after that for another period of time.

Emergency powers and planning for health oriented disasters (in which this Bill is framed, but not to which the Bill is limited) is a dreadfully important task to undertake by local and provincial governments. The experience of New Orleans cannot be over emphasised nor the experience of the 2003 blackout in Ontario ignored.

First, is it necessarily prudent to suppose that the highest level of government in a province is necessarily the most compotent at dealing with a disaster? Can they respond or coordinate a response more effectively than a municipality, or even a non-governmental organization? Giving the premier power to do what is necessary is one thing, that they would be the most efficient and effective at "immediate action to prevent, reduce or mitigate a danger of major proportions" is quite another and should be qualified with this Bill.

Secondly, giving the premier emergency powers over muncipalities could hand the principles that govern a response over to partisan politics. We see this currently happening in New Orleans where, the Washington Post reports, the "nation's response to Katrina is cleaving the public down partisan lines as a domestic issue." In addition to the question "how could this be prevented" it also related to my third point.

Thirdly, centralizing power in a response to a disaster would rather than unify the population at the ground, the people against the disaster, it would have people unload a sense of personal responsibility upon the provincial government of whom they would wait orders. A spokesperson officially representing electrical engineers in Ontario says that during the 2003 power outage his people volunteered to help out in the crisis, they did not need a law to force them to work (reported in a Canoe article). Rather than being inspired by disaster to volunteerism, labourers would be threatened by law.

Wonky Strategic Counsel / Globe and Mail poll: a reader comments

Remember that wonky Strategic Counsel poll released a few days ago? You might remember that the sample size was wrong, the numbers didn't add up, the dates the poll were taken were wrong, and the Atlantic region was not polled. Well, a very judicious reader, "Stats-prof", has a number of brilliant comments addressing some concerns that another reader, Patrick, had with my analysis:

I'm going to assume that they MUST be polling the Atlantic. In which case, that n=170. But why do they never report it? What neglect of both comprehensive poll reporting and of Atlantic Canada. The sample size is enough to report, as the Atlantic margin of error is +/- 7.5% (based on n=170).

Read the full comment.

Canada Election 2006: New poll shows Conservatives with a three point lead

CON 36% LIB 33%
Outside of Quebec: CON 43% LIB 34%
That is the headline at of a three day polling average by SES Research. Download the poll here.

The 'nasty' Liberal website

Currently on the homepage, there is a noticable lack of class being shown.

Exhibit A:

The website currently is prominently displaying a picture of Stephen Harper, Conservative leader, with his eyes shut while talking.

His posture, presumably, is his eyes shut - unflattering and slightly ridiculous at the same time.

In light of this, the Potent Pew calls for the Liberals to take the offending picture down.
Or we will assume that the Liberals in charge are doing this:

UPDATE 11:18am: the picture has now been changed.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Canada ought to eliminate the penny

Brilliant idea. I've proposed it once before. But this guy has been saying it for years - eliminate that pesky penny.

Memo to Canada's political parties: excercise some real vision and dump it.

Canada Election 2006: New Seat Projections for January 1 (Globe and Mail / IPSOS / SES)

Finally. With new polls come new data. With new data comes the latest seat projections..

And the seat projections show the Tories pulling ahead of the Liberals to form a possible minority government. This is close to what democraticSpace was predicting yesterday (but before two new polls came out). Even though the Tory seats are minimal in the East, they are dominating the rest of the Country (although dominating may be a strong word to use for Ontario).

Here are the polls we have first aggregated, then plugged in to create seat projections based on regional data provided by previous elections:

1: SES Research Jan. 3 1200
2: Ipsos-Reid Jan. 2 1000
3: Strategic Counsel Jan. 2 1000


Seat Projection for January 3/2006:
Liberals: 107
Conservatives: 114
NDP: 25
Bloc: 62

There are different sub-stories to these numbers:
  • The NDP is collapsing already in many parts of the country. Yet this still is not putting the Liberals over the top. In some places, it cannot get worse for the NDP. The NDP is trailing the Greens in our aggregates in Quebec.
  • Conservatives are surging all over the country. In Quebec, the Conservatives are still polling very low. Yet, they are on the rise. And if the rest of the country is leaning heavily toward the Tories, there is some evidence to suggest that they could win a seat or two.
  • The Bloc have been cooling off. A month ago they were polling in the 60-percent range. Now, they are mid-50s.

The Liberal War room

Monte Solberg provided a glimpse into the Conservative war room this week.

Now we have this latest release from the Liberals: Harper Hypocrisy on Accountability.

Some of the proposals the Liberals cite of Mr. Harper were actually rejected by Harper for being too soft, actually. For instance, C-4, for a creation of an I
ndependent Ethics Commissioner, was blasted for not being tough enough.

But nevermind all that. The real problem with the latest release is that it draws more attention to the problems of the Liberal party. No poll, to my knowledge, has ever indicated that Canadians tend to see the Liberals as the party to make government more accountable. By drawing people to themselves, it is unlikely to work.

If there is any valid critique of the conservatives this election, it is that they are not being conservative enough. Andrew Coyne makes this point. And it is a dandy:

Harper is doing everything he can to reassure people nothing much would change under a Tory government. Those aren't policies he's announcing -- they're policiettes, dainty little morsels of cash targeted at strategic interest groups, in much the same style one associates with a traditional Liberal.

It is a good point. To be sure, the five main principles the Conservatives are focusing on are a good start, given that having a priority in everything is a bad idea. But they are just a good way to frame vision, not a substitute for substance. What made Reform members so passionate and interesting, in hindsight, was their passionate vision. For example, the Triple-E Senate idea is brilliant; now, it just gets dumbed down to merely electing Senators. Sure, one step at a time. But vision is bigger than mere steps. Vision is leaps. Bounds.

The new polls...

The latest IPSOS / Strategic Counsel / SES polls will soon be aggregated into our seat projector. Surprising numbers to follow this afternoon....

Governor General Jean's New Year address

Anyone get a chance to watch GG Jean's New Year address?

The computer generated opening of national symbols, the crystal clear, mellow voice providing distinct pronunciation, together with the inspirational music that fulfills the nationalistic ambience - it all reminds me of the Bible on DVD I got for Christmas from a new relative.

I'm glad Canadians have not constitutionally stressed that questionable idea that religion can actually be separated from the state.

Ah, the good old days, when everyone hated the media but had no other news source

Someone at the Ottawa, Citizen is bitter that blogs are ruining their sport.
News stories regularly quote bloggers commenting on the latest political issue -- not just famous bloggers, or those involved in the game, but ordinary guys with blogs, sometimes even anonymous guys making postings on other peoples' blogs. If these ordinary guys were shouting on the street corner, their views would go unmarked...

People we will never hear of again, some of them anonymous or pseudonymous, got their vicious little ideas into the paper. If they had written letters to the editor and tried to use a pen name, the letters would not have been printed.


A decade ago, the most inconsequential opinions and events regularly become news because they were on the Internet. The Internet was new to us then, and everything about it was exciting. So now are the views of Mike from Mississauga and his cousins in cyberspace. It is less a question of what is said than how it is said.

'Bloody hell, who let the plebs into the club?'

As with anything new, there will probably be a maturation process that would take place with the discovery of blogs as a medium of the active populace in deliberating issues or even setting the agenda toward a nation's elections.

I wonder how unique the Canadian electorate is in their use of the blog?

Lazy writing


Monday, January 02, 2006

New Canada Election poll 2006: Globe and Mail / CTV / Strategic Counsel

Can we trust the latest Globe and Mail / CTV / Strategic Counsel poll (released January 2)? Sometimes, the numbers just don't add up. In this case, Strategic Counsel's latest election poll does just that.
  • Canada: 1,000 (3.2)
  • Quebec: 248 (6.3)
  • Rest of Canada: 753 (3.6)
  • Ontario: 568 (5.0)
  • West: 297 (5.7)
  • B.C.: 133
How the hell do these numbers add up to anything? Adding any combination of these numbers to try to reach the sample size of 1,000 is fruitless. The only numbers which make sense are if you add Quebec with the Rest of Canada (but even then, you end up with 1,001 and not 1,000).

ANOTHER THOUGHT: "Findings have been rolled up and analyzed over a three-day period. Interviews were conducted between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1." Something must not be right here. Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 is a two day, not three day, period. On second thought: I suppose if you count today, it would be correct in saying that they were rolled up over a three day period. My bad.

AND ANOTHER THOUGHT: Is the Strategic Counsel even polling the Atlantic region? From what I have seen - no. Not in the poll, and not in any past polls that I can remember.

Which begs the question: can such a poll even be trusted?

MIA: Jack Layton

Where is Jack Layton?

Update: Oh, he is back. But he ain't saying much. You can only go on so long with the we-need-more-NDP-MP's-in-Ottawa-to-fight-corporate-tax-cuts-and-save-trees schtick for so long without sounding dry.

This doesn't count either: "Can you name anything the Conservatives accomplished in the last Parliament." definition, the opposition can't accompish anything by itself. Duh.

He is obviously drawing light of the fact that the NDP got corporate tax cuts removed from the Liberal budget. But if my memory serves me correctly, the Tories also made modifications to the throne speech too. They might as well chalk that up as an annoucnement.

Globe and Mail: Martin/McGuinty gun offence proposal legal problem hits the media

Well, as least I am not the only one saying it. The Globe and Mail has the law gods, ie. law professors, commenting on the latest "reverse onus" proposal and whether it not it violates the Charter: "Liberals are backing a tough-on-crime proposal that would put the onus on those accused of committing a gun offence to show why they should not be locked up":
"It's truly a crap shoot," Peter Russell, a retired University of Toronto political science professor, said about the likelihood this particular proposal would survive a Charter challenge.

"I think that it would be a tough case to make . . . the actual rise in gun-related crimes is not huge. It's a small blip. It doesn't point to a long-term trend yet," he said, adding that the Liberals' support of the proposal smacks of opportunistic electioneering.

Gerald Gall, a law professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said the government would have to argue there is a "pressing state objective" for the new law because the Criminal Code applies "not just to Toronto, but the rest of the country.''

"You would have to examine the prevalence of it nationally rather than in one particular geographic locale," he added.

Prof. Gall said the Supreme Court has accepted the concept of reverse onus in some circumstances, but that it is difficult to argue even though the Charter permits governments to impose "reasonable limits" on a right.

Mr. Reid has acknowledged that the reverse-onus bail provision will require justification under the Charter of Rights, but the Liberals believe the courts will recognize the public importance of the new law.

He also acknowledged it will be controversial.

"You'll get six lawyers with seven opinions, is my guess. But why should that alter the effort on the part of governments?" he asked.

So, there you have it: from the mouth of the gods. And I agree with them.

The death spiral of the West

This blog is about Western Civilization. That said, let me deviate from Canadian politics at the moment to confront a larger problem of the West: birth rates.

Mark Steyn has some fascinating thoughts on the subject. Read the entire speech.

Well, here’s my prediction for 2032: unless we change our ways the world faces a future … where the environment will look pretty darn good. If you’re a tree or a rock, you’ll be living in clover. It’s the Italians and the Swedes who’ll be facing extinction and the loss of their natural habitat.

What’s the better bet? A globalization that exports cheeseburgers and pop songs or a globalization that exports the fiercest aspects of its culture? When it comes to forecasting the future, the birth rate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it’s hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). And the hard data on babies around the western world is that they’re running out a lot faster than the oil is. “Replacement” fertility rate—i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller—is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you’ll eventually find the United States, hovering just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada’s fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That’s to say, Spain’s population is halving every generation. By 2050, Italy’s population will have fallen by 22 percent, Bulgaria’s by 36 percent, Estonia’s by 52 percent. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: in the 2004 election, John Kerry won the sixteen with the lowest birth rates; George W. Bush took twenty-five of the twenty-six states with the highest. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans—and mostly red-state Americans.


This ought to be the left’s issue. I’m a conservative—I’m not entirely on board with the Islamist program when it comes to beheading sodomites and so on, but I agree Britney Spears dresses like a slut: I’m with Mullah Omar on that one. Why then, if your big thing is feminism or abortion or gay marriage, are you so certain that the cult of tolerance will prevail once the biggest demographic in your society is cheerfully intolerant? Who, after all, are going to be the first victims of the west’s collapsed birth rates? Even if one were to take the optimistic view that Europe will be able to resist the creeping imposition of Sharia currently engulfing Nigeria, it remains the case that the Muslim world is not notable for setting much store by “a woman’s right to choose,” in any sense.

Contraception, abortion, selfishness, and the decline of religious values, are arguably killing the West. Our civilization is, undoubtedly, in crisis. If we cannot replace ourselves, who will?

Income Trust/Goodaleak scandal

This is very very bad for the Liberals. I thought this Goodaleak would merely blow over.

Not so, gleaming from the papers. The Toronto Star, to be precise. If these types of questions keep getting asked by the media, expect a lot of stories that track the intimate details of the RCMP investigation into Income Trusts.

"Nobody's contacted me, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody's contacted anybody in the PMO," Martin replied when asked if he'll be joining Finance Minister Ralph Goodale in speaking to Mountie investigators."

"Did you get a call from the RCMP yet?" may get monotonous for a reporter, but you can bet when the answer is "yes", it will fuel the scandal fire some more. Not good for the Liberals.

Canada election 2006 poll: Harper's Conservatives in a tie with Martin's Liberals

The new Ipsos poll is out. I am just waiting for another one, possibly today, in order to create another seat projection based on aggregate polling. My thoughts on this poll? Wait and see. It is too early to tell if this is the poll tells any real movement in the electorate, since it is within the margin of error of other polls.
Ipsos Reid survey, conducted on behalf of CanWest News Service/Global News, shows that while the Conservative and Liberal parties are in a virtual tie when it comes to vote support the underlying dynamics suggest that it is the Conservative campaign which has traction and momentum. According to the survey, if a federal election were held tomorrow, 33% of voters would cast their ballot in support of the Conservatives (+1 point from last week’s survey), 32% would vote for the Liberals (32%, -1 point), 18% would vote for the NDP (+2 points), and 5% would vote for the Green Party (unchanged). In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois attract more than half of federal votes (52%, -2 points).

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The legality of Paul Martin's reverse onus proposal

I discussed earlier the legality of Martin/McGuinty's reverse onus proposal.

I have since come across a Canadian examination of reverse onus portions of the criminal code in R. v. Laba.

The Court agreed that a reverse onus does violate the Charter. The only question, then, is whether or not a reverse onus proposal violates s.1 of the Charter:
The appellant conceded that the reverse onus provision in s. 394(1)(b) of the Criminal Code contravened the presumption of innocence guaranteed by s. 11(d) of the Charter and therefore Tarnopolsky J.A. examined only the question of whether the violation could be saved as a reasonable limit under s. 1 of the Charter.

And the Court's conclusion?

I (Sopinka) would answer the constitutional questions as follows:

1.Does s. 394(1)(b) of the Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, infringe s. 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?


2.If the answer to question 1 is in the affirmative, is s. 394(1)(b) of the Criminal Code a reasonable limit on the s. 11(d) Charter right, pursuant to s. 1 of the Charter?


As a consequence, pursuant to s. 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, I would strike down the portion of s. 394(1)(b) which is unconstitutional by removing the portion which imposes the legal burden of proving ownership, agency or lawful authority upon the accused.

I suppose the question is, is a reverse onus in the case of a gun crime a fair limit on the Charter right of the presumption of innocence?

See also
"The portion of s. 515(10)(c) permitting detention "on any other just cause being shown" is unconstitutional. Because the impugned phrase confers an open-ended judicial discretion to refuse bail, it is inconsistent with both s. 11(e) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees a right "not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause", and the presumption of innocence. It is a fundamental principle of justice that an individual cannot be detained by virtue of a vague legal provision. Parliament must lay out narrow and precise circumstances in which bail can be denied. The impugned phrase is not justified under s. 1 of the Charter. Its generality impels its failure of the proportionality branch of the Oakes test."

McGuinty/Martin's reverse onus gun-crime solution: will the law profs deride it?

One year ago, 134 law professors sent a letter to Conservative leader Stephen Harper. (Read the letter here). They refuted Harper's constitutional position on same-sex marriage.

I have always seen this letter as a baltantly political move. It is a classic case of an "appeal to authority" - professors give their legal opinion. Their opinion is merely a way to cloak their political views with a degree of authority.

It is within their right as legal professionals to submit such a letter to a party leader. But right does not equal responsibility. And it will be interesting to see whether law professors take up their responsibility as teachers of the law to explain why Paul Martin's/Dalton McGuinty's "reverse onus" proposal violates the Charter of Rights. The reverse onus proposal "would require those accused of gun crimes to demonstrate why they should be released."

Will Canada's law professors stand up and refute this position? Prove me wrong. Tell me these letters have nothing to do with politics. I want to believe. Really.

Minorities and crime

I have just discovered some very interesting facts regarding the Canadian correctional system:

  • "While Aboriginal people in Canada comprise approximately 3% of the Canadian adult population, they comprise 18% of the federal offender population (Trevethan, Moore & Rastin, 2002)."
  • "As illustrated in Figure 7, of those who are incarcerated, the most serious offence for which the largest proportion of visible minority offenders are incarcerated is robbery, followed by murder, drug-related offences and sexual offences."
  • "Differences also emerged between visible minority and Caucasian offenders in the most serious offence for which they are currently incarcerated. Visible minority offenders are incarcerated more often for drug-related offences than Caucasian offenders, but less often for other offences, such as property offences and sex-related offences."
Make of it all what you will. I will say that the statistics on aboriginals are astounding, though. Something must be done about this.

Martin and McGuinty's gun crime reverse onus proposal

Martin backs effort to keep gun-crime suspects in jail: That is the latest plank of the Liberals, to get tough on gun crime. How would they get "tough"? By making people prove they are innocent, a "reverse onus" test.

This is a summary of my thoughts of the idea: stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

The reverse onus test is one more example of how extreme cases can produce bad law. This idea is anathema to Canadian ideas of liberty and our English traditions. I predict if this law ever gets enacted in some form, it will run afoul of current habeas corpus provisions. As Andrew Coyne has noted, "How do you prove you're not a threat to society?"

Coyne also notes that this idea violates the Charter. In this, he is quite right to suggest that Martin/McGuinty idea violates the Charter, because it blatantly does.
10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention

a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
c) to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.

Oh, and section 9 also provides the right not to be detained arbitrarily. And a reverse onus condition is precisely arbitrarily. Such a condition wouldn't last 5 minutes in a court.

Martin's spokesman says that he is confident such a condition will past muster in the Court system, saying "the importance of protecting citizens against gun violence is paramount." Unfortunately, I don't suppose anything short of wartime will ever justify this reverse onus test.

Martin ought to eat his own words on the subject of defending the Charter. Remember when Martin said "We have to recognize you can't cherry-pick Charter rights. What you have to do is say, 'If you want your rights to be respected, then you have to understand other people's rights have to be respected.' When the courts said this is a Charter right, then it is the responsibility of the prime minister to defend the Charter. "

Will Martin use the notwithstanding clause to overturn a court decision which does not jive with the Charter? As Martin said of Harper, so too he might ask himself: "
If he wants to overturn a Charter right, then he should come clean and say, 'Yes, I will use the notwithstanding clause.'"

For in a transparent display of political opportunism, he has dismissed one of the Charter's -- and the common law's -- most treasured legal right. It is so myopic - so stupid - that I can not see how it can possibly be justified as either policy or law.