Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Elizabeth May shut out of TV debates

I wondered if this was going to happen:
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is once again getting shut out of the televised debates, but she is already rallying her troops for a fight and finding some unlikely allies.
From the Star. Interesting to see who some of these allies are:

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton — who had threatened to boycott if she took part last time — expressed dissatisfaction with the way the decision was made.

“If certain leaders are not invited to participate, I think it is reasonable for them to know why,” Layton said in a statement.

“We’re fine with her in the debate,” he added.


Bryon Wilfert, the Liberal incumbent for Richmond Hill and a close confidant of Dion, denounced the decision, although made it clear he was not speaking on behalf of his party.

“I think the networks are wrong,” said Wilfert, who considers May a friend and thought she contributed much to the debate last time.

It's very much to Layton's credit (and Wilfert's, but then he wouldn't have to face her in the debate) to take this stance, especially since he initially opposed her inclusion in the previous debate. The fact is, she did contribute a lot to the debate last time. Now technically, she was on much stronger ground in 2008, thanks to Blair Wilson's having crossed the floor to join her party. Technically, of course, the networks would be consistent with their previous policy if they didn't let her in, since the Greens no longer have a sitting MP, but surely having participated previously should count for something, no? It's worth remembering that the PCs came within two seats of being eliminated in 1993, and it's a safe bet that if Jean Charest and Elsie Wayne hadn't managed to cling to their seats, the PCs would still have been allowed into the debate in 1997.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Then again...

As noted yesterday, Ipsos' latest poll puts the Cons in majority territory. It's worth remembering, as a commenter to yesterday's post reminded me, that polls of this sort are hardly the last word, so maybe it's not time to panic yet. Indeed, EKOS also just came out with a poll of their own suggesting that the Cons, while ahead, are not anywhere near a majority. This poll is a lot more consistent with most (not all) recent ones.

Of course, if after the election the new parliament is pretty much the same as the old one, we'll be right back where we started... unless the opposition tries to form a coalition again. Unfortunately, this seems unlikely, since the Cons have been absurdly successful in painting coalitions as something evil and unbecoming of Canadians. Why this idea resonates with the public I have no idea, but it does. So we'd have yet another Conservative minority government... and quite likely a one-way trip back to Massachusetts for Iggy.

Friday, March 25, 2011

And they're off...

As you will doubtless be aware by now, the Harper government has been defeated in a confidence vote, which means an election is coming. The situation is unfortunate, because at best we're looking at another Conservative minority government... but the latest poll looks much, much worse:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives begin an election campaign this weekend far ahead of their political rivals in public favour and would be poised to win a "comfortable" majority if Canadians cast their votes now, a new poll has found.

The national survey, conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global National, reveals voter support is declining for the opposition Liberals who have put forward a non-confidence motion that will lead to the defeat of the Conservative government in the House of Commons this afternoon.

The March 22-23 poll by Ipsos Reid found public support remains solid for the Tories despite recent opposition attempts to draw attention to such controversies as the government's treatment of Parliament and revelations that an ex-senior aide to Harper lobbied a department to get funds for his fiancée, a former escort.

The Conservatives are now supported by 43 per cent of decided voters -- up by three points from two weeks ago.

Just as important, the Tories now have a widening 19-point lead over the Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff.

The Grits, who have been trying to incite public fury over the government's ethical record and improve the public's negative impression of Ignatieff, now have the support of just 24 per cent of voters, down by three points.

Jack Layton's NDP, which put the country on the path to a spring election by announcing earlier this week it would not support the Conservative budget, are backed by 16 per cent of voters -- no change from the previous poll.

What's confusing, though, is the fact that another poll found that voters are increasingly skeptical of the government:
A poll conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV by Nanos Research shows that 41 per cent of Canadians trust the Conservative government less than they did a year ago. Only 6 per cent trust it more. Forty-eight per cent feel about the same, and 5 per cent just don’t know.
What is going on here? One interpretation is simple - one (or both) of those polls is just plain wrong. But there's another possibility, and a disturbing one at that. It could well be that corruption and dishonesty in government tends to favour the political right, even when it's a right wing party that's being corrupt and dishonest. After all, people who have made up their minds that all politicians are crooks are going to be more inclined to give their (grudging) support to a party they believe will reduce the role of government... which is precisely how right wing parties like to market themselves. Notably, prominent Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella thinks the Ipsos poll is accurate, and that a Conservative sweep is coming.

I'm not 100% certain of this, of course, and I really hope it's not the case. If it is, our democracy is even more broken than previously thought.

Of course, one of the biggest problems in our democracy is first-past-the-post. Given this, some people are bound to advocate tactical voting (or, as it's become trendy to call it in this country, "strategic voting"). Now I'm a "never say never" kind of person, and I recognize that in extremis this might be necessary. However, most of the time it doesn't do any good, and you're simply wasting a vote on a party you don't even really like in the mistaken view that you're helping stop the Cons. That said, tactical voting might help if, and only if:

1) The national situation is such that the Cons are either on the verge of a majority (as they may well be now) or on the verge of being pushed into second place. The key, though, is on the verge. If things are such that a majority is inevitable - or impossible for that matter - there's no benefit for tactical voting (though there may be a benefit to the party that advocates tactical voting, which usually means the Liberals). Now this is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for this approach to help. The other is:

2) The situation in your own riding must be such that the Conservative candidate could credibly either win or lose. This rules out a riding like Winnipeg Centre or Elmwood-Transcona (where the Cons are a non-entity) as well as ridings like Provencher or Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette (where most of the population thinks they'll go to Hell if they vote for anyone else).

It's worth noting too that even in such a case, the best tactical vote might actually be for the NDP (especially in parts of BC or Saskatchewan) or even the Greens (in Saanich-Gulf Islands, for instance) but I doubt too many Liberals are going to point out subtleties like this. Myself, I'm kind of hoping a Liberal canvasser comes to my door and tries to sell me on the subject of tactical voting so that I can rub his or her face in this fact.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Republicans want to bring back child labour

SB 222 – This act modifies the child labor laws. It eliminates the prohibition on employment of children under age fourteen. Restrictions on the number of hours and restrictions on when a child may work during the day are also removed. It also repeals the requirement that a child ages fourteen or fifteen obtain a work certificate or work permit in order to be employed. Children under sixteen will also be allowed to work in any capacity in a motel, resort or hotel where sleeping accommodations are furnished. It also removes the authority of the director of the Division of Labor Standards to inspect employers who employ children and to require them to keep certain records for children they employ. It also repeals the presumption that the presence of a child in a workplace is evidence of employment.
Source (h/t PZ Myers at Pharyngula).