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on to the next fight(s)

As depressing as it is to see the Conservatives win a strong minority government, there are other battles to be fought, and right away.

First, there are two provincial by-elections in Vancouver on October 29th in Vancouver Burrard and Vancouver Fairview. I live in Vancouver Burrard and I am very excited about the NDP candidate Spencer Herbert. Spencer is young, progressive, and queer, three things that we need more of in Victoria. His Liberal opponent is Arthur Griffiths, who has a great deal of name recognition, but really has only ever ran his family’s business and you could make a strong case that he did a rather poor job. I think that it will be a close hard fought race in Vancouver Burrard. I hope that voters realize what a great chance this is to elect someone young, with new ideas, but who also understands the issues that are most important to the residents of Vancouver Burrard.

There are also municipal elections across BC on November 15th. Vancouver has the chance to elect a progressive mayor and council with a very strong Vision Vancouver/COPE slate. With Harper in Ottawa, and Campbell in Victoria (at least until May ’09 anyway), it would help the conservative/progressive balance to have a progressive mayor and council. I think that Gregor Robertson stands a very good chance of winning the mayor’s office, and with his strong personality and leadership the Vision/COPE candidates for council should also do quite well.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , | 1 Comment

looking ahead

I was very saddened at the results of last nights election. I do not like Stephen Harper, I do not like the Conservatives (though as a whole they are not as bad as Harper is). I like Stephane Dion, but I thought before, and now it is totally confirmed, that he is not a strong enough leader to become Prime Minister. I voted strategically in my riding, I held my nose and voted for Hedy Fry, and it turns out that was the right choice. I most wanted to vote for Adriane Carr, but as she finished a distant fourth it would have been a wasted vote. Lorne Mayencourt surprisingly came in second. I would have been totally crushed if I had voted for Adriane Carr and the Greens and the result was a Lorne Mayencourt Conservative victory.

I do not really have much to say about the overall election results. I am upset that there are going to be fewer progressive voices in Ottawa. I think that the whole country is lucky that the Conservatives did not win a majority. I think that the results also mean that the Liberals need to do their best to work with the Conservatives for at least the next couple of years. Voters are clearly not comfortable with giving the Liberals back the power that they abused in their last reign. The last Parliament was partly dysfunctional largely because the opposition parties failed to find common ground with the Conservatives. I think that the leaders should have face to face meetings and work out an agenda that they can mostly agree upon. I think that the Liberals in particular need to show that they are above partisan politics and they need to support economic initiatives and work with the Conservatives on a compromise environmental plan.

Most importantly for the Liberals I think they need to replace their leader. I like Dion, he comes across as honest and highly intelligent, but he also fails to stir any great emotion in his audience. I think that his English is a liability, but so was Chretien’s, the difference was that everyone could feel Chretien’s passion, while Dion comes across as what he is, an intellectual. It would be nice to see a search done for a new leader. I am not interested in Bob Rae or Michael Ignatieff becoming leader, though both would likely fair better than Dion. I am not sure who is out there to possibly run for the leadership, but I am sure that there must be at least a few reasonable candidates. It seems that John Manley does not really want the job, but I still hold out hope. There had been talk in years past of Louise Arbour possibly running, I think she would be great. She is bilingual, and she is a she. Her international reputation is outstanding and her work as a Supreme Court justice would look very good to Canadian voters. She might also be above politics at this point in her life though.

I hope that this Parliament focuses on solutions rather than the partisan fighting that ruined the last Parliament. There is serious work to be done about the international economic crisis. There is work to be done on the justice system. There is a great deal to be done about Canada’s climate change plan. While ideas are sure to clash, it is incumbent upon all parties to work hard to find the common ground and pass legislation that will benefit Canada and Canadians.

October 15, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | 1 Comment

voting out of fear

I cannot actually remember if Adriane Carr said the following or if I just distilled what she said into this simple message which is, “Vote out of hope, not out of fear.” Carr either said that exactly or something that could be distilled down to that simple, and powerful sentence. Carr was answering a question about strategic voting. It is not possible for Ms. Carr to tell people to vote strategically in Vancouver Centre; if she were to encourage strategic voting she would be asking people not to vote for her. I like Carr’s approach, and I think that it is a basic and fundamental part of democracy that you should vote for someone or a party that you want, not simply against the worst party or person out there.

While I would like to vote out of hope, and I have done so in the past, I am going to vote out of fear. It is our unfair electoral system that requires many voters to cast ballots out of fear. Some day I hope that we will adopt a more fair electoral system so that strategic voting to stop the worst party or person is no longer necessary, but as of right now, and more importantly as of 7am tomorrow when I go to vote, the system we are stuck with requires that I vote out of fear.

In 2006 I voted more out of hope than fear. I voted for the NDP (I say the NDP and not Svend Robinson because I was unhappy to be voting for Svend but I had no choice if I wished to support the NDP). In 2006, as is the case now, one of the top issues for me was electoral reform. The NDP officially supports some sort of electoral reform, though they rarely make an issue out of it during elections. The Green Party also supports electoral reform, and Elizabeth May and Adriane Carr have mentioned the need for electoral reform. It is unfortunate that the issue never seriously gets discussed during campaigns. So much voter apathy could be cured with a more fair electoral system. I am getting off track here, but my originally point was supposed to be that in 2006 I felt I could still afford to vote out of hope, but now in 2008 after two and a half years of Conservative government, I no longer feel that I can vote out of hope. Stephen Harper’s vision for Canada is too scary to take any chances with.

Lots of people have tried to convince me that it is still okay for me to vote NDP in Vancouver Centre as it is mainly a race between the NDP and the Liberals. I think that it is important to vote Liberal in Vancouver Centre if you want to stop Harper because we need as many Liberal MPs as possible. There is still an outside chance that the Liberals could win close to the same number of seats as the Conservatives. Even if the Liberals lose some seats, it is important for their numbers to be strong so that they still appear to be a government in waiting, and not the drained and wasted political party that they are appearing to be these days. Jack Layton may think that the NDP is a viable alternative to the Conservatives but his numbers do not support this. It is still only the Liberals, of the progressive minded parties, who have the strength in Ontario and Quebec to win enough seats to form a government.

Regardless of Liberal seat totals I am not inclined to vote NDP this time around anyway. From what I have heard from Michael Byers this campaign I do not like him much. He refers far too often to his human rights work abroad and says little about what he intends to do for human rights in Canada. He mentions his books and writing for The Globe and Mail far too often, it comes across as elitist. I am also unhappy with Jack Layton’s opposition to a carbon tax. The NDP continues to focus on big polluters and says that cap and trade is the only viable option to combat climate change. While I agree that we need a cap and trade system, that is no reason to not have a carbon tax. The Liberal position is to implement an immediate carbon tax and then to work with the provinces and other countries to develop a workable cap and trade system. A carbon tax could be implemented quickly and with minimal cost, whereas a cap and trade system would take years to set up.

Ultimately, I would vote for Adriane Carr, the Green Party, and Elizabeth May if I felt I could afford to vote out of hope tomorrow. The Green Party focus on the environment, electoral reform, and solutions (rather than ideology) based politics are things that resonate deeply with me. I hope that enough people vote Green tomorrow to keep them around as a viable fourth party. If they manage to nearly double their vote totals they will get a huge amount of public financing. Public funds amounting to around $2 million per year should allow the Greens to have the structure in place to perform even better in the next federal election. It is possible though, that there are thousands of people like me, who would like to vote Green, but simply feel they cannot because to do so would risk giving Harper another mandate. Hopefully someday, when we have a fair electoral system, we can all vote out of hope.

October 13, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

I guess Mayencourt is accepts the fact that he cannot win in Vancouver Centre

Tonight I attended about half of the Xtra West sponsored Vancouver Centre all candidates debate. I left when the debate shifted to questions from the floor. It was clear that the audience was largely made up of partisans so the quests ions were going to surely be designed to embarrass one candidate or another.

I was a little bit surprised at how far Lorne Mayencourt went while attempting to defend himself from what was a rather hostile audience. Mayencourt rightly tried to defend his personal record both as a private citizen and as an MLA. While I do not like Lorne Mayencourt and I think he was an ineffective MLA who did not spend enough time in the riding, I do think that he has every right to defend himself. Mayencourt does have a record to run on, which is important, it is okay to not be too impressed by his record, but I think that people should accept that he has done some good work over his life, and he has at least been motivated by worthy causes.

Mayencourt went too far though. He lashed out at the audience, he seemed angry rather than passionate. He even decided that it was okay to say “fucking” during his tirade. The word fucking was uttered earlier in the night as well but in reference to the film Young People Fucking. Plus, the word sounds much classier coming from Hedy Fry than from Lorne Mayencourt. I think that if Mayencourt wanted to defend himself and his record he should have presented the facts calmly. He should have ignored the hecklers who so rudely hissed and booed at him from the moment he arrived. Instead, because he chose poor language, because he lashed out at the audience, and because he generally did not answer the questions that were asked, Mayencourt has written off a large constituency in Vancouver Centre.

I am sure that a large number of GLBT people are going to support Mayencourt, but I am also equally certain that anyone who was perhaps thinking of voting for him who was at the debate tonight will think long and hard before voting for a man who lashes out in such an angry and unprofessional fashion.

A friend who was also at the debate was somewhat impressed with Mayencourt. He was impressed that Mayencourt stood up for himself, and for gay conservatives generally. While I disagree with how Mayencourt defended himself, I do think that it is important that all political views be treated with respect. Within the gay community, conservative minded folks are often thought to be crazy. I am conservative on many issues, but on social policy I consider myself to be rather progressive. I do find it a little bit odd that some GLBT people support the Conservative Party when it is so very clear that the party does not support them. Regardless though, all views should be respected.

Other than Mayencourt’s blow-up the night was rather uneventful. Michael Byers of the NDP, and Hedy Fry of the Liberals traded a lot of shots. It seems that they have both been doing a fair bit of lying about each other and it seems to be getting to them.

Adriane Carr was generally too vague in her answers but I do think that she gave a great answer in response to a question about what it means to vote strategically. She had to avoid suggesting that strategic voting is the right thing to do to stop the Conservatives; to say so would be encouraging people not to vote for her. What I boiled Carr’s point down to on strategic voting is that you should vote out of hope and not out of fear. I would much rather vote for a party that inspires hope in me, than vote against a party that I am afraid of. That being said, I just might be afraid enough of the Conservatives to abandon hope this time around.

Carr also brought up a fair electoral system, an issue I care a lot about, and one that no other candidate ever mentions. The other great point that Carr made was regarding the Conservative reversal on Bill C-10. She noted that the main reason the Conservatives reversed their position was that they were taking a total beating on the issue in Quebec. While there were artists and activists across the country upset with Bill C-10, it is only in Quebec that the issue translates into a large number of votes.

One thing that upset me a little bit was that Libby Davies was at the debate. Other candidates from Vancouver East were invited but they declined the invitations. It is not that I dislike Libby, but having two NDP candidates when every other party only had one was a little bit unfair. I also think it is a little bit unfair to Michael Byers to get compared to Libby Davies. If I had the option of voting for Libby I would never have any issues about who to vote for. Tonight Libby was excellent. She was charming, intelligent, and avoided the sharp political exchanges that Fry and Byers engaged in. Libby Davies is always a breath of fresh air in my view. She presents her views with solid reasoning, and a quiet passion that comes across as very genuine.

All in all I was very unimpressed with the debate. None of the candidates really put forward any substantial ideas. Lorne Mayencourt seemed to lose his composure and that is unfortunate because he had a valid point to make. Hedy Fry and Michael Byers look petty in their constant squabbling. Adriane Carr came out looking good in my view, but she does not seem to be a serious contender in the riding. With all of that said, at least the night was somewhat entertaining.

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Vancouver Burrard to get a new MLA

So there are going to be two provincial by-elections in Vanoucver on October 29th, two weeks after the federal election. While I understand that there is a legal requirement to call by-elections within six months of a vacancy, I also do not see the point of electing two MLAs for Vancouver who will sit for about two months before the May 2009 election. The BC Liberals saw fit not to sit at all this fall even further alleviating the need for by-elections. Nonetheless, residents in Vancouver Burrard will have the option of voting on October 29th, and I for one think that there is someone running who is definitely worth supporting.

I should be open up front, I have done a little bit of volunteer work for Spencer Herbert, NDP candidate for Vancouver Burrard. I plan on doing more volunteer work during the campaign. I should also make it clear that I am not partisan. I did join the NDP so that I could support Spencer’s bid for the nomination, but I am not over enamoured with the federal or provincial NDP. I have never voted NDP in a provincial election. I would not be inclined to vote NDP in May of 2009 either, except for the fact that Spencer Herbert is a great candidate.

One of the main reasons I am so supportive of Spencer Herbert is his age. He is in his late 20s but has already served three years as a Vancouver Parks Board commissioner. He has a real sense of honesty and virtue about him that is probably in many ways related to his youth. He seems to care most about the people who need help the most. Housing is one of his number one issues, and I can think of little that is more important to residents in downtown Vancouver. The thousands of homeless that live in Vancouver can be seen throughout Vancouver Burrard. While the greatest problems are found in the Downtown Eastside, the homeless issue affects all of Vancouver, and particularly Vancouver Burrard.

Another reason, and one that I really think is important is that Spencer is queer. While a person’s sexuality is not the best reason to vote for someone, it certainly does help them to understand issues of importance to the queer community. It is possible for straight people to be really great allies, but there is no real substitute for the queer community having queer politicians representing them. Lorne Mayencourt has been the MLA in Vancouver Burrard for the past 7 years, and while he has worked on issues of importance to the queer community, he cannot hope to be as effective as Spencer Herbert. Mayencourt had to work within a political party that was not keen on any of his initiatives. Spencer, on the other hand, would be in a party that is far more supportive of the queer community.

I hope that residents in Vancouver Burrard take note of the by-election and take a little bit of time to learn about Spencer Herbert. The Liberals are running Arthur Griffiths in the riding, who other than name recognition really offers very little to Vancouver Burrard residents. Griffiths is a millionaire by birth. He cannot possibly understand an issue like homelessness, or the incredible cost of renting an apartment. He cannot possibly understand what it is like for people like myself to struggle to pay rent and their student loans even though I have a good job.

Spencer Herbert understands the struggles that are facing residents in Vancouver Burrard. He understands that you learn more by listening that simply by spewing the party line to you. He understands that residents in Vancouver Burrard need an MLA who will be active and visible in the riding.

Visit http://www.spencerherbert.ca to find out more about where Spencer stands on the issues.

October 7, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Two debates, two languages, no winners?

Now that the French and English language leaders debates have concluded there seems to be no winners. Most pundits will only grudgingly pick a winner for either debate, and there is a wide variety of opinion as to who won each of the debates. I am biased, I do not like Harper, I would be hard pressed to find him the winner of anything. That being said I have some observations about who did well in the debates and who did poorly.

Firstly, despite what was only an average performance in English, I think that Stephane Dion actually came out ahead after the debates. In French Dion naturally did well. With Duceppe the only other francophone, Dion had little competition. While Harper and Layton are definitely competent in French I do not think that they have the language necessary to give detailed and nuanced answers. I should also admit that I myself do not understand much French. I base my opinion on the English translations and to a degree on how the leaders sound when they are speaking French. Layton, Harper, and especially May, all have a lot of hesitation and pauses while they search for the right words, while Dion and Duceppe give quick and sharp answers.

In English Dion managed to hold his own. He came across as very earnest, and more honest than Harper. Dion did not win the English debate, but the fact that he held his own is a small victory in my view. Many more Canadians have now seen Dion in action. They have seen that he is not as weak a leader as he has been portrayed to be by the Conservative machine. I think you can call Dion an overall winner from the debates. He did well in French, and was not outclassed in English. I think the argument that Dion is an unknown quantity has less weight now than it did two days ago.

I, unlike many professional pundits, can easily pick a winner from the English debate, and the winner is Elizabeth May. Before tonight Elizabeth May was unknown to most Canadians. She had gotten some media coverage, but not a great deal. After tonight Canadians know that she is extremely intelligent, and very sharp in her criticisms. More than any other leader she had statistics at her finger tips. She pointed out when Harper was being particularly dishonest with his statements. May was able to portray a strong grasp of economics and the environment. For me, and most importantly, May emphasized the importance of electoral reform. May is right when she says we need an electoral system where people can vote for who they believe in, where they can vote for the party or the candidate that they really want the most, and not base their votes on avoiding the worst of parties or candidates. I want to be able to go into a voting booth and vote for both a candidate and a party. Most votes end up meaning nothing as most ridings elect members with less than 50% of the vote. Large numbers of voters who pick a winning candidate are not voting for the person or the party that they truly want to vote for.

Overall winner, largely because he was expected to do poorly, is Dion. Winner in the English debate largely because she was relatively unknown before, is May. Though I have picked two winners I also think that there were no real losers. Harper was constantly attacked on both nights yet he never had any really bad moments. Harper avoided making any new, ill planned platform policies. Now that he has faced the combined attacks of all four opposition leaders and gotten through relatively unscathed, Harper looks very secure as a leader.

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , | Leave a comment

Vancouver Centre candidates are contributing to global warming with all the hot air they are spewing

This evening I went to an all candidates debate at the Gathering Place Community Centre. I decided to go very last minute, and now I am wishing that I had just gone home and had a nap like I had originally intended.

I should confess from the start that I did not stay for the entire debate. I made it through about 1 hour and 45 minutes before I could no longer stand the constant stream of nonsense coming out of everyone’s mouth. The debate was largely based around audience questions, which is an extremely poor way to run a debate if you ask me. I do not think that any candidate actually answered the question that was asked of them. It is not surprising that candidates have a tough time answering the reandom questions thrown at them. Some of the questions are so specific to the asker that there is basically no point in answering them. Some questions are so broad that it is not possible to answer them.

I was struck by how little substance was put forth from four supposed star candidates. I do not think that Hedy Fry should really count as a star candidate anymore. She was a star back in 1993, but since then she has diminished greatly. She lately seems to win because she has a very strong volunteer base and she connects well with many people in the riding. She does not have a big national profile like most start candidates do. Lorne Mayencourt is hardly a star either. He was an ineffective and rather unpopular MLA. His only real star quality for me is that he is an openly gay man running with the Conservatives. Adriane Carr is a star as far as the Green Party goes, but she is not well known outside of BC, and even in BC I would bet that most people could not tell you who she is. Michael Byers is the only one of the bunch who you might call a legitimate star candidate. He regularly writes for The Globe and Mail, he is a published and critically respected author, and has been an adviser to Jack Layton for several years now on matters of foreign policy.

While Michael Byers may be a star candidate on paper, in person he does not shine. I had heard from a friend who saw him speak a couple of weeks ago that he has a tendency to yell when he gets excited. Tonight the room for the debate was not large, it was easy to reach the entire room with a strong speaking voice, yet Michael Byers seemed to be constantly yelling at the audience. At one point Hedy Fry commented on how good rhetoric can sound, especially when you are yelling it across the room. It was a good line, but Ms. Fry mostly bandies rhetoric about herself, she just has the decency not to yell it at people.

Not surprisingly, given that I do not like the man or the party that he is running for, I thought that Lorne Mayencourt was the least effective communicator of the group. In a room that was lacking in substance, Mayencourt seemed to be trying to get through the debate without offering up any substantive discussion whatsoever. Perhaps it is a good tactic for Mayencourt. I do not think that the man is unintelligent, but he may not match up too well against Byers or Fry in a really deep policy debate. What Mayencourt appeared to be working hard at was being likable. He seems to be taking the Stephen Harper approach, just make people like you (or at least not afraid of you) and the best way to do that is not to say anything about Conservative plans or ideology because quite frankly most Canadians are not conservative.

Some people in the audience may have liked Mayencourt a little bit more after tonight, but myself, I am not taken in by any of his charms. Any openly gay man who is willing to run for Harper’s Conservatives is not someone I would trust. I cannot see how a man who is supposedly proud of who he is can run for a party that is ridden from head to toe with homophobic bigots. I would like to see how far Mayencourt would get in a caucus where almost all of the members are deeply opposed to same sex marriage.

If I had to pick a winner from the debate, for me it would be Adriane Carr. She did not present any astounding ideas or have any real good zingers for her opponents, but she was able to stress throughout the night that it is important in politics to focus on the solutions, and not whose idea is being used to get to the solution. She criticized the other parties for attacking each other’s ideas not on their merits, but simply because they come from a different party. She used the carbon tax as an example. As far as environmental policy goes, the carbon tax is a quick and effective way to begin to change consumption behaviour. She noted that the BC NDP opposes BC’s version of the carbon tax, not because it is a bad idea, but because they stand to gain politically by opposing it. The federal NDP also opposes a carbon tax, not because it is a bad idea, but because it is a major part of the Liberal platform. Carr also had a good point about how Jack Layton is in a sense responsible for killing the Kelowna Accord and a national daycare strategy. Apparently in late 2005 Elizabeth May pleaded with Jack Layton to hold off on bringing down the Martin government so that the global climate change meeting in Montreal could be allowed to finish. The Kelowna Accord could also have been implemented, and the national daycare strategy of the Liberals could have been fully implemented. Instead, alleges Carr, Layton decided to go to the polls early because the numbers were looking good for some NDP gains.

I fully agree with Ms. Carr that the important thing about politics is the solutions, not really how you get to those solutions. At the same time, if you do not have any seats, or very few seats, you might not ever get anyone to take any of your ideas seriously. It is a fine line then between supporting good ideas, but playing enough political games to make sure you win enough seats so that your own ideas occasionally get heard.

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , | 1 Comment

very very interesting

A friend sent me a link to Vote for Environment, a website that suggests how to vote in each riding to elect as many MPs as possible who are not Conservatives. The website acknowledges that the sort of mass strategic voting that they are advocating is not good for democracy, but the Conservatives are potentially catastrophic for the environment and for Canada’s ability to play a leading role internationally in the fight against climate change.

Mass strategic voting could be completely unnecessary if Canadians demanded a change in the way we elect our MPs. Some sort of mixed proportional and single member plurality system would be ideal. It is important to still have representatives who represent a geographic area, but we should also work to ensure that the proportion of seats won by a party more closely reflects the proportion of the vote that the party won.

At least in 2008 progressive voters should vote for whomever stands the best chance of beating the Conservatives in their riding, then we can worry about making the necessary changes to our voting system so that people can actually vote for the party that they want and have their vote count every time.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | 1 Comment

lock them up, throw away the key, and raise taxes to pay for it

I am always annoyed by “tough on crime” measures that are thrown about during election campaigns. Crime issues seem to resonate with a lot of voters, even though the vast majority of Canadians are not exposed to any crimes, yet alone violent crimes which seem to get all the attention. There is a perception that crime is rampant, largely I think because crime gets reported everyday on various news media. I am not saying that crime is not a problem, but I do find it odd how big of an issue it becomes during elections.

The Conservatives would like to be able to send children to prison for life terms. They also want to be able to ruin a child’s life by advertising to the world that they are criminals. I say children because the Conservatives want to be able to identify and possibly sentence to life in prison people as young as 14 years old. I understand that people who are 14 years old are capable of committing some truly heinous crimes, but I also do not think that the proper way to compensate victims or society is to completely ruin the life of the perpetrator. I think true justice would mean punishing the criminal, but also bringing them to believe that what they did was wrong, and that they should make it a part of their life to help prevent crime, to educate people heading down the wrong path.

Another popular Conservative “tough on crime” proposal is to further limit the use of conditional sentence orders (house arrest). While it does often seem like criminals are getting off easy when they are sentenced to house arrest instead of jail time, there are very good reasons why we cannot send everyone to jail. Firstly, jails cost a lot of money. Watching CBC Newsworld today the number of $87,000 per year per male prisoner in federal penitentiaries was thrown out (they never said what the source of the information was). Justice costs a lot of money, it is necessary to have prisons, some people are too dangerous to be in society, but we cannot simply lock up every criminal, it would cost too much money. When the Conservatives, and all the other parties, say they want to get tough on crime they should also let voters know that getting tough on crime costs a great deal of money, and that taxpayers are going to have to pay to get tough on crime.

The second reason why putting people in jail is not always the right choice is that it often makes a first time offender who made a terrible mistake into a life long criminal. House arrest is usually given out to first time offenders. While I am certain house arrest is a cake walk compared to time in jail, I am also sure that no one wants to be under house arrest. People always argue that tougher sentencing would mean less crime. Most crimes are not planned, they are often based on stupidity, or passion, or drunkenness, or addiction, or mental illness. People are not thinking about the sentence they might receive when they are going to commit a crime.

I think that the right approach to getting tough on crime means spending more money on police, not so that they can arrest more people, but so they can make people feel safe, so that they can deter idiots and hot heads from doing something they will regret, and to be able to go after gangs and career criminals who are committing some of the worst crimes in Canada. I think that reducing crime means spending money on social housing, drug treatment, youth programs (sports, culture, etc.), income assistance, mental hospitals, Aboriginal programs and many more things. With a strong social safety net a lot of criminals will no longer have the need to commit property crime. With something to occupy their time many youths will avoid the kind of hooliganism which comes from hanging around in large groups with nothing to do. It makes more sense to invest in social programs than to simply lock people up at a cost of $87,000 per year.

September 24, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , | 1 Comment

this election is a perfect example of why we need electoral reform

Last federal election I was having difficulty deciding who to vote for. I live in the Vancouver Centre riding so my dilemma in 2006 was whether to vote for a ring thief who was running with the party I wanted to support, or vote for a woman who I have little respect for but who has always been a strong supporter of progressive politics. In the end I decided that I would vote for the party that supported the issue most important to me. That issue was electoral reform. I think that our electoral system does not represent voters very well. It is rare in any riding for one candidate to receive 50% of the votes cast. When a party is able to win a majority government with around 39% of the vote I think there is something wrong with the system. The majority really should go to the 61% who did not vote for the governing party.

Electoral reform rarely if ever gets talked about during election campaigns. It is an issue that most citizens do not care about and few understand very well. I think that it is pretty easy to convince people that there is something wrong with our system by pointing out to them that the vast majority of votes are not cast for the winner, yet the winner governs as if everyone fully supported them. The first past the post system is designed to create majority governments. Perhaps that is a good thing, overall I would say that Canada has had pretty good government for its history, at least when compared with the rest of the world. I think that pretty good is not good enough anymore though. I think that it makes sense to require government to be made up of at least 50% of the voters in this country. I think that the nearly limitless power of a majority government should be reserved for those rare situations where one party so resonates with voters that they are able to capture 50% plus of the vote.

I know that electoral reform will not get discussed much during the campaign, and it will likely not get discussed much afterwards either, but I still think that it is important. Is it really that strange or radical to ask that the make up of the House of Commons actually reflect the intentions of voters?

Stephen Harper may end up winning a majority government on October 14th, and if he does he is not likely to win more than 40% of the vote, yet he will govern as if he won 100% of the vote. Electoral reform made little sense to the Liberals when the right was fractured and they could easily win elections with 38-40% of the vote. But now with a fractured left it is the Conservatives who stand to win repeated elections without having to convince more than 4 of 10 voters that they are the right option to lead the country.

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Politics | | 2 Comments