Thursday, 7 May 2015

Random thoughts on the Alberta election

First off, I'm absolutely thrilled that the NDP has toppled the PC regime.  44 years of one-party rule is far too much, even if it had been a party I liked!  

I've seen the doom and gloom and apocalyptic predictions from PC and WR supporters.  I;m certain those are exaggerated.  We're talking Prairie NDP, not Ontario, so Notley's crew should be more like Roy Romanow's Saskatchewan or Gary Doer's Manitoba NDP governments.  As has been noted by more observant commentators than I, the Alberta NDP are proposing policies similar to Peter Lougheed's.  The chances of Edmonton going completely bolshie are between slim and none.

I'm hopeful that Notley will be able to implement the sensible policies from her party's platform, including a review of the royalty regime, increasing minimum wage and adjusting the corporate tax rate.  None of these are particularly revolutionary.  

Royalties:  She doesn't want to kill the energy industry in Alberta, rather she wants to see that Alberta gets a fair share.  Giving away the resource in exchange for the extraction jobs is not good value - I hope she can avoid being held hostage by the energy industry.

Increasing minimum wage will help the lowest income Albertans, a novel idea as the preferred Tory approach of cutting taxes to the richest hasn't provided benefit to society as a whole.  I've read predictions that giving more money to low income earners will help the economy as the extra money will be immediately spent locally, boosting the earnings for local retailers and other businesses.  Giving money to the richest doesn't have the same value, as those who are already somewhat comfortable will be inclined to lock the money away into savings or spend it outside the local area (vacations & investments).  I'm looking forward to see if this theory is correct.

Increasing the corporate tax rate from the lowest in the country to, well, still the lowest in the country doesn't strike me as harmful to the economy either.  Naturally, anyone whose taxes are increased will complain.  I would, too.  However, business leaders will need to think hard about whether they'll relocate their businesses and where they'll go.  Again, thinking positively here, the NDP should keep the corporate tax increases small enough that they don't drive businesses away.  The spoiler in all this is, of course, that the economy is already punishing many Alberta businesses.  How will we know if a business is failing anyway (i.e, under the current tax regime) and then decides to blame the NDP for the situation they inherited.  we'll have to watch critically.

I'm hopeful that Bob B will get his wish and the NDP will provide agricultural workers the same protections that WCB provides to workers in other industries.

Looking at the vote distributions, it's easy to see where Jim Prentice misjudged calling this election.  The combined WR and PC votes come to 52%.  As the WR support comes mostly from disaffected tories, it's easy to see that he could have waited to integrate the floor crossers into the PC fold, and shown rural voters that he was rebuilding the PCs that they know and love.  His cynical attempt to jump into a campaign when the Liberals and WR were disorganized, and the NDP had a new leader, completely backfired on him.  WR was able to capitalize by rallying rural support against the WR floor crossers.  Meanwhile, the Alberta Liberals, who've not been much of a force since Lawrence Decore's time, were pretty much invisible.  The result was splitting the conservative vote and allowing the progressive vote to coalesce around the NDP.  

Jim Prentice screwed up, Brian Jean didn't (and kept the most outrageous of the WR candidates from torpedoing themselves), and Rachel Notley ran a flawless campaign.  And now Jim P has walked away.

Although I'm pleased with the NDP victory, the results from this election once again show the flaws with the first-past-the-post system.  The tories won more votes than the WR, but elected fewer candidates.  If Alberta had a PR system, then there'd be more PC MLAs than WR, but even with fewer overall votes, WR gets twice the number of MLAs.  However, I thinks it's unlikely that the NDP will seriously look at PR as they would never benefit from it in Alberta.

I've heard/read pundits proclaiming the end of the PC party.  Don't count them out yet.  They won more votes than WR.  The PC brass will be studying this election, and my guess is they'll try to rebuild, most likely by talking seriously with WR (and not poaching MLAs like Prentice) to find common ground for combining, as was done with Reform and the federal PCs a dozen years ago.  I figure the Alberta Liberals are done, though.  


Saturday, 7 March 2015

C-51

Let me see if I have this straight:  the Conservative-led Government of Canada is sponsoring legislation that would, among other things:
"amend the Criminal Code to provide for an offence of knowingly advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general. It also provides a judge with the power to order the seizure of terrorist propaganda or, if the propaganda is in electronic form, to order the deletion of the propaganda from a computer system."

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party of Canada's Facebook page has re-posted a message from Al-Shabaab calling for terrorist attacks on shopping malls.

So, will the CPC be required to take down its message if the legislation passes?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Do terrorists need special treatment?

Do terrorists need special treatment?
In January, 2015, Shawn Rehn murdered an RCMP constable and injured his partner.
In October, 2014, Michael Zehaff-Bibeau murdered an army corporal and injured a Parliament Hill security guard.
Also in October, 2014, Martin Couture-Rouleau murdered an army Warrant Officer and injured another soldier.
In August, 2013, Justin Bourque murdered three RCMP officers and injured two others.
In March, 2005, James Roszko murdered four RCMP officers.

Zehaff-Bibeau and Couture-Rouleau were instantly vilified as terrorists, the other murderers were not.  What’s the difference?  All were horrific crimes.  What makes two of these crimes deserve different treatment from the others?
Later this week, the Government of Canada will introduce more anti-terror legislation. I don't know what will be in the proposed legislation.  They'll talk about Michael Zehaff-Bibeau and how his actions with a stolen museum piece (a Winchester Model 94) spread terror, and how more terror was spread by Martin Couture-Rouleau, whose weapon of choice was an automobile.  I doubt there will be any mention of Justin Bourque and how he shut down all of Moncton with his arsenal of a Norinco M305 (legally purchased with a valid FAC), a Mossberg 500 shotgun and a crossbow.

we'll never get proportional representation


In the above article, Eric Grénier has crunched the numbers and estimated the results for a federal election to be held now, based on current polling.  The results of his analysis indicate that the Liberals would get the most votes, but the Conservatives would get the most seats.  Basically, the Tories are in position to turn 32% of the vote into 40% of the seats. 
Further, the Greens would get 50% more votes than the Bloc Québecois, but both would get the same number of seats (with a potential for more BQ seats than Green).  There are further disparities:  the Greens are polling roughly 4-6% consistently across Canada, but are likely to get only 2 seats (if they are lucky), which represents around ½ % of the seats in the House of Commons.
For me, this analysis presents more justification for tossing out “First past the post” (FPTP) voting in favour of some form of proportional representation. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen:  we have a system that benefits the top two parties, and without the support of at least one of those two parties no change will be possible.  The Liberals and the Conservatives are interested in getting and keeping power, and have no particular interest in sharing:  both are quite happy to play an all or nothing game.  When in opposition, you may hear a Conservative or Liberal speak about the need for PR (for example,http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/what-stephen-harper-was-writing-in-1997/ , http://stephanedion.liberal.ca/en/articles-en/p3-voting-system-canada-2/ ) but you can be confident that once they get their hands on power those earlier words will be forgotten.

So I will continue to waste my vote.  I am now back in Tory territory (North Shore of Vancouver), and come the next election, I’ll boldly cast my vote for yet another candidate who speaks for my interests, and will curse again the day after as I learn that I’ll be, yet again, represented by one of Stephen Harper’s puppets.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

What sins will compel us to disregard someone's achievements?

Bill Cosby is a significant figure in the media history.  His character in the 1960s "I Spy" was one of the first mainstream African-American characters in American entertainment in a leading role, where he was the equal to his European-American partner, played by Robert Culp.  His career in standup comedy was even more successful - I never watched "I Spy" but I enjoyed listening to his routines on LP and cassette.  His "Fat Albert" stories (and the animated Saturday morning feature) kept me entertained and also presented African-American children in a positive way.  "The Cosby Show" was one of the first mainstream presentations of a family of African-American professionals (he played a doctor, his TV wife was a successful lawyer).  He earned a PhD in education based on his work to combine entertainment with education for children.  And since he has been accused of sexual assault, he has been vilified, bloggers have been demanding justice, and CBS pretends that they have never heard of him.

Can I still enjoy listening to his standup routine, or would that make me complicit in his alleged crimes?

Woody Allen has directed more than 40 films (and he also has a great history as a standup comedian).  He has been accused of sexual abuse of children.  Can I enjoy his films and comedy routines, or would that make me complicit in his alleged crimes?

Sir John A MacDonald, as every Canadian knows, was our first prime minister.  He was one of the "Fathers of Confederation", having worked with leaders from Upper and Lower Canada, from the Maritimes and the West to create the Dominion of Canada.  He then went on to be one of the longest serving PMs in history (19 years, plus a term as leader of the opposition).  He was certainly flawed - even in his own day he was caricatured for his fondness of alcohol, and he was involved in multiple scandals, especially with his much-favoured CPR project.  To celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth, Huffington Post ran a series of articles laying out MacDonald's crimes for all to see:  a virtual campaign of genocide against First Nations (appropriating First Nations lands, starving First Nations peoples unless (and even when) they moved to reserves, implementing the residential schools to destroy First Nations culture), racist policies against immigrants from China and other parts of Asia (head tax, and denying citizenship to non-European immigrants), persecution of Métis and First Nations who rose in armed rebellion against the government (he has been made personally responsible for the execution of Louis Riel).

Can I live in and celebrate this country that MacDonald worked so hard to create?

In my opinion, people are complicated.  We can continue to celebrate peoples' achievements while holding them responsible for their mistakes.  Steve Fonyo completed Terry Fox's run - let's celebrate that, and find support for Steve rather than punish him for his troubles.

Baby's waking, gotta go!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Remembrance protocol

I was observing the ceremonies today and couldn't quite put my finger on something that was bothering me.  Then it occurred to me - it was how the ceremony to remember the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform places more emphasis on our government than on the veterans, seeing members of the military and their families.

According to the Government of Canada (from http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/get-involved/remembrance-day/guide-to-commemorative-services), the order of precedence for laying wreaths at Remembrance Day ceremonies is as follows:

"Protocol dictates the order in which the wreaths will be laid. According to the Royal Canadian Legion, depending on who is present, the order of precedence is:
  • a representative of the Queen (Governor General, Lieutenant Governor)
  • a representative of the Government of Canada (highest ranking official present)
  • a representative of a provincial government 
  • a representative of a municipal government
  • a Silver Cross Recipient
  • a representative of the Canadian Armed Forces
  • a representative of the Royal Canadian Legion
  • representatives of other organizations and individuals"

This means that the fuckers who send young men and women off to die rank higher in the order of precedence than their parents, surviving comrades and family.  So who is the ceremony really for, then?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Poppies

According to HuffPost, the Legion hopes that they will set a record with 19 million poppies sold this year.
http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/11/07/poppy-shortage-canada_n_6121612.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-alberta&ir=Canada%20Alberta

What I want to know is, who are the 15 million (+/-) Canadians that are NOT buying poppies each year!?!