Saturday, November 07, 2020

Saturday #yqrvotes Links

Having previously posted on voters' options, I'll offer one more roundup of the latest on Regina's municipal elections (for those who haven't joined the crowds voting early). 

- The lead up to election day has seen the Regina Public School Board take some additional steps to protect students, including by making masking mandatory at all ages and reducing the capacity of high schools by 50%. (Of course, it would help if either of those steps involved meaningful support from the province.)

- Sask Dispatch's coverage features Richelle Dubois and Michelle Stewart discussing defunding the police; John Klein and Carla Harris each writing about what the election means for transit; Joey Reynolds and Florence Stratton writing about ending homelessness; Saba Dar weighing in on the environment; and Jim Gallagher discussing Wascana Park.

- Heidi Atter reports on the appropriate calls for Regina's mayoral candidates to disclose their donors before the election - and the unfortunate choice of the main contenders to show no interest in letting people know what they're voting for.

- And Atter also reports on the results of EnviroCollective's candidate survey on renewable energy.

- Finally, Heather Persson makes the case for residents to exercise their right to shape the future of Saskatchewan's municipalities.

PINNED POST: On advance preparation

I've noted before that Scott Moe's spring election posturing prevented Elections Saskatchewan from putting together a full postal balloting system for this fall's provincial election. And I haven't yet heard of any municipalities going to a full vote-by-mail balloting system for their subsequent votes (though I'd be interested to hear if any are trying).

But that doesn't mean voters can't cast a ballot by mail - only that they'll need to be prepared well in advance in order to do so.

With that in mind, here are links to the mail-in ballot application processes for...

- Elections Saskatchewan (Application deadline has passed)

- City of Estevan (November 9)

- City of Martensville (Application deadline has passed)

- City of Meadow Lake (Application deadline has passed)

- City of Melfort (November 9)

- City of Moose Jaw (Application deadline has passed) 

- City of North Battleford (Application deadline has passed)

- City of Prince Albert (Online deadline has passed, November 9 in person)

- City of Regina (November 9) 

- City of Saskatoon (October 30 online, November 8 in person)

- City of Warman (Application deadline has passed)

- City of Weyburn (Application deadline has passed) 

Note that the timing of an application will be crucial. In most cases cities should be receiving applications by now, meaning that the primary concern is to make sure applications are sent in time to be received by the deadlines above.

Other cities including Lloydminster and Yorkton have approved of mail-in balloting processes, but don't appear to have detailed information available online. I'll update with links as they become available.

[This will be a pinned post throughout election season - I'll plan to update it as registration windows open and close.]

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Antoine Genest-Grégoire, Luc Godbout and Jean-Herman Guay highlight how people are willing to pay more in taxes if they see the benefit to be derived from the revenue. But Laura Kruse notes that Jason Kenney is just one of the anti-social ideologues instead looking for excuses to slash both revenues and services.

- Bill McKibben writes about the need to start making our political choices based on a time frame of millennia, not merely the next election cycle. And Jillian Horton calls for health professionals to boost their advocacy for public policy which will reduce the illnesses which result in people needing to use the health care system.

- Zak Vescera reports on the pressure even the start of the second wave of COVID-19 is putting on Saskatchewan's public health system. And Bill Curry warns that Canada is one of the wealthier countries pushing to have the distribution of any eventual vaccine based on wealth rather than need.

- Jason Warick reports on the lack of drug treatment in Saskatchewan jails brought to light by the overdose death of Donald Blair. Nigel Maxwell reports on the needless difficulty people incarcerated in the Prince Albert Correctional Centre have communicating with their families due to obsolete equipment. And Murray Fallis writes about the need to end the particularly abusive use of solitary confinement, while Michael Spratt identifies it as a form of torture.

- Finally, Felix Salmon writes about the fall of Exxon's empire due to its ill-advised bet on a continuing oil boom. And Max Fawcett weighs in on the consolidation which will ensure that any dead-cat bounce for Alberta's oil sector will produce a minimal amount of employment.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Musical interlude

 Our Lady Peace - Superman's Dead

On asymmetrical warfare

In the wake of this week's U.S. elections - featuring a closer-than-expected contest for the presidency, and down-ballot results which look to disappointingly leave substantial power in Republican hands - there's been an outpouring of commentary criticizing the money that was put into campaigns which ultimately lost.

If there's a lesson we can draw from a broader set of political results, though, it's about the need for all-of-the-above politics - rather than an assumption that a single form of winning support can be counted on to make up for a lack of others.

In the U.S., the division between the air war and the ground war was stark. In the presidential race as well as major congressional battles, Democrats were able to pour loads of money into ads. 

But Biden's initial reluctance to pursue door-knocking at all, combined with a lack of effort to reach communities where it appears particularly important to win and turn out support, looks to have been a major factor behind some of the most disappointing results. And the assumption that text alerts and phoning would make up for a lack of in-person contact looks to have been thoroughly flawed.

That's particularly so since the Democrats' greatest successes look to have come in areas where ad blitzes from above (boosting voters' motivation) were paired with grassroots canvassing (which converted that motivation into turnout).

It appears that a similar dynamic also may have applied in Saskatchewan's provincial election - though the problem for the NDP arose on the former front.

Here, the prospect of an opportunistic snap spring election call in the midst of a pandemic always seemed particularly egregious given the Saskatchewan Party's reserves of corporate donations. The prospect of the government locking everybody indoors, then using its cash reserves to drown out all competing voices through electronic media, looked like about the most unfair and self-serving starting point one could imagine.

The election eventually took place on schedule, and COVID receded somewhat over the summer. As a result, the opposition parties were eventually able to get out door-knocking - albeit with some restrictions which did make communication more difficult. And on election day, the NDP was in its familiar situation of being able to reach target voters with a thorough ground game in priority ridings. 

But by that point, the party was fishing in a depleted and uninterested pool. Large numbers of mail-in ballots and advance voters proved to be more the result of a shift in turnout rather than an increase. For citizens who had seen far more government messaging than contrasting perspectives in the course of the campaign (particularly with what should have been major news going unreported through mainstream outlets in that time), it figures to have been relatively easy to decide that the pandemic offered a valid excuse to stay home. And the result was that the NDP's support on election day fell well short of what the polls suggested.

In sum, neither an air-war approach without a well-thought-out plan to engage with voters in their communities, nor a strong ground game in the face of a massive advertising disadvantage, is likely to represent a recipe for victory. But by the same token, the answer isn't to criticize the people who have built up one or the other, but to ensure the causes we support have enough of both to succeed.

[Edit: fixed & added wording.]

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Bruce Arthur writes that Doug Ford's already-pitiful response to COVID-19 is getting worse as Ontario opens up businesses in the midst of a deadly wave. And Adam Hunter reports that Saskatchewan businesses are worried about Scott Moe's refusal to require masks anywhere other than Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Alberta - a limitation which is particularly noteworthy given that the Sask Party's previous refusal to allow municipalities to pass mask mandates of their own was supposedly based on a desire for consistency across the province. 

- George Monbiot's series of columns on the UK's privatized COVID response examines continues with a look at a failing attempt to outsource testing and tracing operations in schools. Beyhan Farhadi examines the failings of Ontario's "concurrent classroom" system. And Alex Antonyshyn reports on one Alberta school division's decision to provide wellness days to allow staff to recuperate somewhat from the combination of excessive work burdens and pandemic response duties.

- Jeffrey Jones reports on yet another example of oil-industry consolidation which will ensure that whatever operations continue in a dying industry will employ as few people as possible. And Andrew Jeffrey reports that the Kenney UCP's attempts to jump-start coal mining by gutting environmental protections are likewise being met with closures and job losses as businesses move past the dirtiest sources of energy.

- Finally, Nathan Robinson writes that any solace we take from Joe Biden's eventual victory in the U.S. election needs to be tempered by concern that a contest between democracy and fascism resulted in anything less than a landslide. And Ako Ofudike discusses the voting public's worrisome lack of regard for honesty and ethics in the U.S. and Canada alike.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Derrick O'Keefe writes about the possibilities raised by the B.C. NDP's majority election win - as well as a need for far more ambition to achieve them.

- Elise von Scheel reports on new polling results showing that no matter how desperately Jason Kenney tries to fan the flames of separatism, Albertans aren't actually interested in abandoning Canada. But Arthur White-Crummey reports on Scott Moe's determination to keep echoing Kenney's laughable rhetoric about independence in order to avoid actually dealing with the provincial issues where he's failing miserably.

- Gwynne Dyer points out that regardless of the final results (which are looking somewhat less damning than the early returns), the U.S.' election is giving the rest of the world ample reason not to trust it as a rational actor. And Erik Strikwerda discusses the "Kenney stink" which is enveloping the people willing to risk their reputations to serve him.

- Finally, Chantal Hebert writes about the justified push by the NDP and the Bloc to secure an apology for Pierre Trudeau's blanket negation of civil rights through the War Measures Act. 

On flight risks

It's long appeared likely that while Scott Moe has tried to claim sympathy based on the lasting effects of having caused a deadly vehicle crash, the main lasting impact was an all-too-justified belief that he'll be protected from consequences no matter how much damage he does. And that theory only seems to have been confirmed.

But if there's any upside to be found, it's that unlike his predecessor, we shouldn't have to worry about Moe hanging around once he's crashed the province. Instead, the history that's coming to light suggests that once he realizes he's caused damage that he can't explain away, Moe will flee the scene and claim to have wiped his memory at the first opportunity.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Fred Hahn writes about the importance of government investment in times of crisis to make up for what people can't afford - or are understandably scared - to spend. Erica Natividad reports on the millions of Canadians who have no fallback plan if federal relief funding doesn't get renewed - though it's of course worth remembering that many in need either weren't included in the first place, or saw any benefits clawed back by self-serving provincial governments. Trevin Stratten and Robert Asselin note that we should want to be strategic in deciding how to use the resources we have available to tide people over and to set ourselves up for the future. And Brendan Kennedy reports on an appeal by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to see Ontario's basic income project revived by the federal government.

- Meanwhile, Ryan Malosh discusses the updated (if seemingly obvious) research showing that we can't treat specific lengths of time or distances as a magic bullet in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Justine Coleman reports on Anthony Fauci's recognition that the U.S. is likely over a year away from anything resembling the previous normal. And the Alberta NDP has offered its proposals to try to avert a similar uncontrolled outbreak - though there's reason for concern that all of the prairie provinces may be past the point of avoiding a catastrophic fall wave.

- CBC News reports on the lack of any realistic prospect of another oil drilling boom - no matter how much we subsidize fossil fuels either by building pipelines or undermining environmental protections. And Carl Meyer discusses the contrast between a Lib government punting on effective methane rules, and the people pushing for immediate action to limit the greenhouse gas with the most immediate effect on our climate.

- Finally, Kelly Crowe is rightly dubious of the CBC's plan to put a price on its reputation through a sponsored content division.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Demure cats.


On inclusion

Following up on yesterday's posts (and with advance polls still open in Regina's municipal election), I'll close with a quick comment on the public school board elections.

Under most circumstances, I'd be relatively unconcerned about school board elections based on the province's authority (and propensity) to take over decision-making power over education whenever it chooses to do so, while using the boards as scapegoats otherwise. 

But the most recent term did offer a fairly compelling example of the circumstances in which a regressive school board can do significant harm to students' educational environment. So I'll work from a fairly simple set of premises in determining which candidates deserve support.

First, voters certainly shouldn't be rewarding the trustees who used their position to make specious excuses to keep Pride out of schools. In addition to the then-chair Katherine Gagne who is now running for Council, Tanya Foster in Subdivision 5 was one of the opponents of the original Pride motion. And Queen City For All has done effective work in testing where this year's candidates stand.

From there, there's again a strong set of individual candidates which could make for a majority of the Board. The RDLC has endorsed Cecilia Prokop (Subdivision 2), Sarah Cummings Truszkowski (Subdivision 5) and Tara Molson (Subdivision 6), while there's another set of candidates worthy of support including Ted Jaleta (Subdivision 1), Stephen Safinuk (Subdivision 4), and Lacey Weekes (Subdivision 7).

We thus have the ability to make sure that the next Board ensures a safe and inclusive space for all students - and hopefully we'll see that reflected next time human rights are up for a vote.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Andre Picard writes about the cost of complacency in dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Matt Lundy examines Canada's highly unequal recovery, with a stark dividing line between people making more than $22 per hour who have mostly been barely affected by the COVID recession and those making less who have seen lasting damage. 

- Falice Chin reports on the bias of Canadian financial institutions against Black borrowers. Doug Cuthand points out that another provincial election has seen Indigenous people woefully underrepresented in Saskatchewan's legislature (and particularly in the government). And Stephanie Wood discusses the efforts of Sinixt people to reverse the government's longstanding declaration of extinction.

- Amanda Holpuch reports on the reason for hope that tenants are becoming more organized and active in the U.S.

- Selena Ross reports on the Montreal police shooting of Sheffield Matthews. And Caroline Haskins discusses the military tactics being used by Chicago's police to suppress activism around the U.S. election, while Alexandra Villarreal writes about how Kentucky police have been indoctrinated with violent racism (including direct quotes from Hitler). 

- Finally, the Globe and Mail's editorial board weighs in on the failure of Canada's prisons to actually keep people safe by rehabilitating inmates.

Monday, November 02, 2020

On uninspired choices

Following up on this post about Regina's city council elections, the range of possible outcomes in the race for mayor looks far more limited.

Once again, Jim Elliott is on the ballot as the candidate with the strongest policies on paper. But it's hard to hold out much hope for a perennial candidate who's been unable to break 12% of the vote even as the primary challenger - which means that it would be nice to be able to cast a ballot with more chance of meaningfully affecting the result.

On that front, there are two lines of reasoning worth considering.

First, there's the theory that it may be worth casting an anybody-but-Flegel ballot. On name recognition and resources, Jerry Flegel may have a fighting chance of winning - and on policy, it's hard to imagine a worse outcome than endorsing a plan to throw new money at arenas, stadiums and police alongside an implicit expectation of austerity for everything else.

That said, we also need to consider who would stand to benefit from such a campaign. 

Incumbent Michael Fougere is making a few less preposterous promises, and has learned to speak a language that appeals to a relatively wide cross-section of voters. But when it comes time to make any decision, he's regularly shown both a willingness to accede to the wishes of the Saskatchewan Party, and a preference for symbolism over action.

That leaves one other plausible contender for a vote: Sandra Masters, who obviously has Fougere's attention as the main target of his campaign attacks.

On paper, she'd bring a strong resume to the table. In practice, she's been far too willing to resort to anti-tax and austerian language which seems to contradict an otherwise reasonable set of plans and priorities. 

As a result, the choice looks to come down to an evaluation of whether Masters will offer a meaningfully better option than the other candidates with a path to victory in listening if the best happens in the Council votes, and offering any resistance if the worst materializes. And while the difference looks to be incremental rather than polar on both fronts, it still looks to be worth voting for the prospect of something better.

On stark choices

The advance polls are now open in Regina's municipal election, while mail-in ballots have been available for some time. So I'll take the opportunity to discuss voters' options - beginning with the City Council races which make for perhaps the most interesting set of possibilities we've seen in decades.

I've already pointed out Paul Dechene's view of the possible downsides. And Sara Birlios' report includes pessimism as to the prospect of achieving much through electoral means, especially at the municipal level.

But to the extent it's possible to make positive change through municipal government, this year's set of options provides a stronger prospect of that than any in recent memory.

To start with, there's at least some room to build on existing votes and relationships on Council, including a strong majority willing to voting for a renewable energy plan, and multiple votes from what I'd hope are safe Council seats to fund an anti-homelessness program.

From there, it's not hard to see how the election could plausibly result in a durable majority of progressive Council members, plus at least a couple of incumbents (one of whom has already been acclaimed) willing to work on issues as they arise.

Of course, the downside is that there's an equally foreseeable path to a Council littered with rank bigotry, planned giveaways to developers, reliance on overpolicing, and a bevy of anti-revenue rhetoric. We could realistically see John Findura remain the most backward councillor in the city on renewable energy based on his wanting to put off voting on a sustainability framework; we could also realistically end up saddled with a majority of councillors far worse than him on that and many other issues.

We've certainly approached municipal elections from a worse starting point than having a somewhat responsive Council, and an opportunity to elect better. And the uninspiring choices for mayor (which I'll address next) may seem a lot more palatable if we can do the work to elect councillors who will put people first.

So for those looking to make a difference (particularly after the disappointment of the provincial election), now is the time to get people out to support Cheryl Stadnichuk, Andrew Stevens, Dan LeBlanc, Shobna Radons, Shanon Zachidniak, Jason Mancinelli (as a cooperative councillor in a ward with no RDLC endorsement), and Landon Mohl.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Armine Yalnizyan discusses the prospect of a shift in how we approach our economy as our usual monetary and fiscal policy assumptions have proven to fall short of meeting social needs. And Taylor Scollon writes that while there's some value to be found in a modern monetary theory model, we shouldn't treat it as an excuse to avoid needed conversations about raising revenue from the people who have it to contribute.

- PressProgress exposes the Libs' plans for future infrastructure to be built on a user revenue model, resulting both in costs at the point of use and a bias toward projects which produce profits rather than positive outcomes. And Iain Sherriff-Scott reports on the push by Jagmeet Singh and Andrea Horwath to ensure that nursing homes operate for residents' benefit rather than to boost corporate interests.

- Lauren McGill writes about the many ways in which we're imposing undue mental health burdens on our children.

- Brian Kahn reports on Exxon's familiar pattern of handing out money to shareholders while simultaneously laying off workers. Andrew Nikiforuk writes about David Hughes' finding that the Trans-Mountain pipeline is nothing more than a waste of money. And David Roberts offers a reminder that any hope of keeping the oil industry booming by developing plastics represents little more than wishful thinking.

- Finally, Joel Millward-Hopkins, Julia K. Steinberger, Narasimha D. Rao and Yannick Oswald study how it's possible to secure a decent living for everybody while cutting our energy use by 95%.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Justin McElroy writes about the fatigue and unfamiliarity we're feeling in addressing a new wave of COVID-19 - along with the importance of working through those challenges in order to protect everybody's health. Bruce Arther discusses how reopening unsafely in the name of economic activity is a sucker's bet. And the Canadian Press reports on Theresa Tam's warning that we need to be cutting down on contacts in order to stop the increasing spread of the coronavirus.

- Nathan Whitlock's review of Colleen Flood and Bryan Thomas' Is Two-Tier Health Care the Future? and other books examines the value of a universal, single-payer health care system - and the obvious room for improvement in areas where private funding does still have a substantial impact on our health.

- Meanwhile, Danielle Renwick reports on the health care workers who are rightly organizing to topple the Republican politicians who are gratuitously endangering their health. Christine Frangou offers a reminder that public policy affecting people's health is literally a matter of life and death. And Timothy Snyder points out how a lack of health care for people who need it has resulted in far too many Americans being open to quackery in the political sphere as well as the medical one, while James Hamblin highlights how Donald Trump shares and foments his supporters' contempt for science and evidence-based policy.

- Aaron Wherry looks to the U.S.' imminent risk of entrenching antisocial minoritarian autocracy as a warning that we shouldn't take democracy for granted. And Paul Musgrave notes that merely escaping the U.S.' borders can't insulate anybody from the impact of a global hegemon.

- Finally, Marni Soupcoff notes that the wealthiest are the only people who haven't been asked to make meaningful sacrifices in the name of public health. Mark Engler and Andrew Elrod write that the profiteering arising out of COVID-19 has only confirmed the need to tax the wealth of the rich. And Amir Barnea points out the opportunity for change on that front, while Alex Hemingway warns about the risk that the opening will disappear if it isn't seized soon.