Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- James Galbraith compares the mindless drones carrying an increasing share of the U.S.' military load, and those serving to try to attack social programs in the name of illusory deficit reduction. But sadly, Galbraith misses one of the most important similarities: in both cases, the use of replaceable machines for the task makes it far too easy to keep launching attacks even when reason would dictate otherwise.

- Meanwhile, Ivan Semeniuk reports on how poverty can influence childhood development. And Rob Carrick reports that lenders are finding ways to extract more and more money out of those with the least - ensuring that the corrosive effective of poverty are all the more devastating.

- Andrew Coyne is on target in pointing out why there's little reason to consider a merger among Canada's opposition parties. But Aaron Wherry discusses why Coyne's single-election push for electoral reform isn't any more feasible:
Are enough voters so interested in electoral reform that they would support turning the next election into a referendum on that subject? Could enough voters be convinced to momentarily suspend their concerns about other issues? Could enough voters be convinced to ignore the other policy differences between the NDP, Liberals and Greens? Could enough voters be convinced to ignore the possible ramifications of all other policy debates between the parties to vote with the hope that a real election would then be run in short order?

I’ll try to answer those questions: No. Granted, I can’t predict the future with certainty (and have just finished arguing against making such predictions). Perhaps the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens could persuade voters to make this a singular focus. But this strikes me as implausible. I don’t think voters, in general, are so interested in electoral reform that they’d go along with this. At the very least, it seems like a remarkable gamble for the three parties to make. (And, keep in mind, the Conservatives would be keen to explain, loudly and repeatedly and prominently, why this was such a terrible idea.)
Fundamentally overhauling the electoral system would probably take more than a couple days. Legislation would conceivably have to be passed through the House. Legislation would conceivably have to be passed through the Senate (how would a Conservative majority in the Senate handle such legislation?).

Even if you imagine this proceeding as expeditiously as possible, this would take some period of time (A month? A few months? More?). Someone would have to be Prime Minister while this was happening. Someone would have to be governing. How would that work? Conceivably they would have no mandate beyond changing the electoral system. Would they promise to not touch anything else for as long as they were in government? Would they promise to just carry on with Conservative policy until another election could be held? (Would anyone believe them if they promised as much?) What if something bad happened? What if something came up that required government action?

This is not a rhetorical device. I’m not trying to bury the idea in questions. I honestly want to know how this would work because I honestly don’t understand how this is supposed to work. What kind of government would we have for however long it took to change the federal electoral system and what would be the ramifications of having such a government?
- Finally, the Western Producer notes that there's ample reason to think the NDP can turn the tide on its own - particularly in its historical prairie strongholds.


  1. Anonymous11:25 a.m.

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Anonymous11:28 a.m.


    I haven't read Coyne's proposal. But judging by Aaron Wherry's fanciful is clear that both men are severely *over-thinking* this.

    If the law *allows* it...then a simple majority in the house (of whatever composition) should simply pass electoral reform (in whatever agreed upon form) and be done with it.

    Those who advocate for such reform have the annoying tendency of over-inflating the importance & significance of their pet project. They behave as if their reform is some grave and Earth-changing effort...and then they are stunned when a frightened & disinterested public rejects it in *needless* referendum.

    This is not some trade agreement that threatens massive job-loss, law which enforces political correctness, or cut which threatens our health. Note that such monumental (and sometimes unpopular) changes have been imposed on the Canadian public - with much success & sustainability.

    Here, we are talking about a simple reform which has the composition of parliament reflect the actual vote. This is totally uncontroversial...except to those who enjoy the pomp of our antiquated tribal-chief system.

    Those who wish to see every vote count - should simply pass a similarly named bill and be done with it.

    Dan Tan

    1. Agreed that the better path to pursue PR is through direct legislation, not a referendum process or other needlessly complicated procedure. Coyne's proposal seems to be based on the same viewpoint, but involves running a multi-party pact to run a single-issue campaign in order to try to implement electoral reform - and all based on what strikes me as a false assumption that it's impossible for anybody but the Cons to win an election under the current system.

    2. Anonymous6:23 p.m.

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Anonymous6:31 p.m.


      Out of deference to you, I have read Andrew Coyne's "proposal".

      Oh, how surprising. Like that other "Media Party" political analyst, Paul Wells, Coyne begins by telling tall tales about "perpetual" Conservative rule.

      In summary, the Conservatives are divine in nature and not subject to such Earthly considerations:
      - The precedent of Ontario & its three party system (NDP, Lib, PC). Where ALL three parties have taken turns in majority power.
      - The cruelty of voters. Where even successful political parties are replaced due to the impulse towards cyclical change - or - the seduction of a properly marketed alternative.

      Finally, Coyne's "long wind" relents...and the actual proposal is revealed:
      "...a one-time electoral pact. Party riding associations would agree to run a single candidate against the Conservatives, on a platform with essentially one plank: electoral reform. Were they to win they would govern just long enough to reform the electoral system, then dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections. - Andrew Coyne"

      I talked about the "over-inflation" of this innocuous issue in my post above. But, here, Coyne takes it to absurd new heights. He demands the effective dissolution of Canada's major political pursuit of this singular & insignificant legislation.

      The public is worried about economic insecurity & social stability. The next election, they might have to choose between the anal poli-sci experiment Andrew Coyne has cooked up...and a Conservative party promising jobs & wealth.

      Gee...I wonder who would employ Coyne...and I wonder what they would hope to achieve...

      I wonder,
      Dan Tan

  3. Anonymous12:22 p.m.

    Many Canadians feel, the Federal election was tainted and fouled by, Harper's robo-call cheat and not even valid. Once a dictator cheats their way into power, just you try and get rid of them. This is no different than the middle East, trying to get rid of their evil Dictators. No different than the South American country's, trying to overthrow their Dictators. The biggest laugh of all is, Harper insisting they be democratic. Strangely, Harper doesn't tell Communist China to be democratic, now does he?

    The only way to get rid of Harper, would be an armed rebellion. However. Canadians are usually, a peaceful, complacent people. We are known to slumber through everything. That's exactly what Harper counts on, to do his dastardly deeds. We accept Harper's, treachery, lies, deceit, corruption, thefts, dirty tactics, dirty politics and his cheating to win. Other country's, would run Harper right off the planet.

    CSIS even warned of China's huge inroads into Canada. BC was specifically mentioned. Gordon Campbell works for Harper. He sold BC out to Red China long ago. However, no-one would listen to the BC citizens. Harper and Campbell selling Canada out to Red China, began in BC.

    1. Nah. The voter fraud thing was IMO both real and significant; I'm not convinced it made the difference between a Con majority and a different result, but I think it very likely it made the difference in a few ridings.

      But that's the kind of thing that can only change outcomes in very close races. There's been no allegations of significant interference with actual ballots, and as long as all the parties make sure to have plenty of scrutineers and so forth out there to keep an eye on the vote, it will stay that way. Beat the Cons solidly and they will go down. I do think the NDP and Liberals should be very careful to have people out there watching how the voting is done, because I have no faith that the Cons would draw the line at voting the graveyard if they thought they could get away with it.