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Recent entries

  1. A podcast with Michael Geist on technology and politics
  2. Next steps
  3. On what electoral reform reforms
  4. 2019 Fall campaign newsletter / infolettre campagne d'automne 2019
  5. 2019 Summer newsletter / infolettre été 2019
  6. 2019-07-15 SECU 171
  7. 2019-06-20 RNNR 140
  8. 2019-06-17 14:14 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  9. 2019-06-17 SECU 169
  10. 2019-06-13 PROC 162
  11. 2019-06-10 SECU 167
  12. 2019-06-06 PROC 160
  13. 2019-06-06 INDU 167
  14. 2019-06-05 23:27 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  15. 2019-06-05 15:11 House intervention / intervention en chambre
  16. older entries...

Latest comments

Michael D on Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all
Steve Host on Keeping Track - Bus system overhaul coming to Guelph while GO station might go to Lafarge after all
G. T. on Abolish the Ontario Municipal Board
Anonymous on The myth of the wasted vote
fellow guelphite on Keeping Track - Rethinking the commute

Links of interest

  1. 2009-03-27: The Mother of All Rejection Letters
  2. 2009-02: Road Worriers
  3. 2008-12-29: Who should go to university?
  4. 2008-12-24: Tory aide tried to scuttle Hanukah event, school says
  5. 2008-11-07: You might not like Obama's promises
  6. 2008-09-19: Harper a threat to democracy: independent
  7. 2008-09-16: Tory dissenters 'idiots, turds'
  8. 2008-09-02: Canadians willing to ride bus, but transit systems are letting them down: survey
  9. 2008-08-19: Guelph transit riders happy with 20-minute bus service changes
  10. 2008=08-06: More people riding Edmonton buses, LRT
  11. 2008-08-01: U.S. border agents given power to seize travellers' laptops, cellphones
  12. 2008-07-14: Planning for new roads with a green blueprint
  13. 2008-07-12: Disappointed by Layton, former MPP likes `pretty solid' Dion
  14. 2008-07-11: Riders on the GO
  15. 2008-07-09: MPs took donations from firm in RCMP deal
  16. older links...

All stories filed under politics...

  1. 2002-09-26: September 26th, 2002 (from Advogato)
  2. 2006-01-12: January 12th, 2006 (from Advogato)
  3. 2006-04-07: April 7th, 2006
  4. 2006-04-10: April 10th, 2006
  5. 2006-04-13: April 13th, 2006
  6. 2006-04-21: April 21st, 2006
  7. 2006-04-28: April 28th, 2006
  8. 2006-05-02: May 2nd, 2006
  9. 2006-05-16: May 16th, 2006
  10. 2006-05-19: May 19th, 2006
  11. 2006-05-27: May 27th, 2006
  12. 2006-05-30: Harper's agenda is to distract, deflect, deny, and damage.
  13. 2006-05-31: We're not at war in Afghanistan.
  14. 2006-06-05: Canada under attack?
  15. 2006-06-05: Natural resources, equalization, and the so-called fiscal imbalance
  16. 2006-06-07: Oops, the budget passed
  17. 2006-06-11: Analysis of the June 10th Liberal leadership debate
  18. 2006-06-14: The Green Party Leadership Debate
  19. 2006-06-18: Analysis of the June 17th Liberal leadership debate
  20. 2006-06-20: Canada's role in the War in Afghanistan
  21. 2006-06-23: Joining the At Issue bandwagon
  22. 2006-06-28: Dion is from Quebec: so what?
  23. 2006-07-29: Excluding non-renewable resources from equalisation is patently absurd
  24. 2006-08-22: Stop Iggy?
  25. 2006-08-30: Ignatieff says he'll run for parliament if he wins the leadership
  26. 2006-09-11: Analysis of the September 10th, 2006 Liberal leadership debate
  27. 2006-09-18: First question period of the new session
  28. 2006-09-19: Last ballot scenarios: Ignatieff the... kingmaker?
  29. 2006-09-21: The London Leadership Debate
  30. 2006-09-29: Dion is your choice, too
  31. 2006-10-01: A few quick thoughts on super weekend
  32. 2006-10-02: Question period today
  33. 2006-10-06: The front-runners: All could be Prime Minister, given time
  34. 2006-10-11: I take it back, Iggy couldn't win an election
  35. 2006-10-13: From dog days to doggone debates
  36. 2006-10-17: The Toronto debate
  37. 2006-10-21: Debate #2,871: Montreal
  38. 2006-10-26: Dion unleashes his letter writing capability on unsuspecting rival
  39. 2006-11-10: Public transit dominates municipal election debates
  40. 2006-11-24: If Quebec is a nation, so am I
  41. 2006-11-28: Nation vote makes international news -- that is, outside of both Quebec and Canada
  42. 2006-12-14: Rona to serve as Mars rover
  43. 2006-12-15: End of year At Issue panel
  44. 2007-02-07: Dear MP Mike Wallace: try the truth on for size
  45. 2007-03-20: The trouble with parties
  46. 2007-03-28: Thoughts on the Quebec election a couple of days later
  47. 2007-04-13: Stphane Dion's honour
  48. 2007-06-11: The tory Question Period agenda
  49. 2007-09-12: Dalton McGuinty responsible for 7200 deaths, says tory candidate
  50. 2007-09-17: Let Frank in!
  51. 2007-10-26: The new Rat Pack?
  52. 2007-11-04: Harper's motives
  53. 2007-11-08: Why Jack Layton wants a Harper Majority
  54. 2007-11-23: Harpocracy at its finest
  55. 2008-02-09: Why are they in such a hurry?
  56. 2008-02-20: Recognising Kosovar independence will have little impact on Quebec separatism
  57. 2008-02-26: The probability of deficit
  58. 2008-02-27: The oft-missed point
  59. 2008-03-12: Abolish the Ontario Municipal Board
  60. 2008-03-19: The NDP's new role: the tories' lackey
  61. 2008-04-09: Does voter turnout matter?
  62. 2008-04-15: Tories forgot a word...
  63. 2008-04-21: Cons can't con Canada
  64. 2008-04-21: Conservative party does not want Guelph represented
  65. 2008-04-21: Tory spokesman: In-and-out is like AdScam, a scheme to keep money off the books
  66. 2008-04-23: The Democratic Primaries and Us
  67. 2008-04-29: Conservatives vote No Confidence in Elections Canada
  68. 2008-05-01: PMO to Auditor General and officers of Parliament: your message passes through us
  69. 2008-05-03: Happy press freedom day!
  70. 2008-05-06: Stephen Harper calls Brian Mulroney a Liberal
  71. 2008-05-09: Charles Caccia, RIP
  72. 2008-05-22: Why I do not support an elected Senate
  73. 2008-06-12: Conservative sincerity
  74. 2008-06-23: Liberals don't know how to oppose and Conservatives don't know how to govern
  75. 2008-07-04: Returned Order of Canada the height of arrogance
  76. 2008-07-07: Conservative government selling out wheat farmers?
  77. 2008-07-11: Dion comes to Guelph to discuss the Green Shift ahead of by-election
  78. 2008-07-14: NDP candidate takes socialism to a new level
  79. 2008-07-25: Guelph by-election called
  80. 2008-07-30: Gloria Kovach's love-hate relationship with deficits
  81. 2008-07-31: Jack Layton and Gloria Kovach pretend to have credibility on transit
  82. 2008-08-06: By-election thoughts
  83. 2008-08-13: Bush prepares his October Surprise
  84. 2008-08-20: What the ....
  85. 2008-08-23: Community service like no other
  86. 2008-08-29: Vandals threaten the lives of Liberal supporters in Guelph
  87. 2008-09-07: 45 days down, 37 to go
  88. 2008-09-12: Day 50 of the Guelph campaign
  89. 2008-10-05: Vandals threaten the lives of more Liberal supporters
  90. 2008-10-06: There is no morning-after pill for federal elections
  91. 2008-10-08: Day 76... 6 to go
  92. 2008-10-15: Election post-mortem
  93. 2008-10-24: Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways
  94. 2008-11-30: Frank Valeriote off to a good start in the House of Commons
  95. 2008-12-22: Harper truly gives up on Quebec
  96. 2008-12-30: Auto bailout lacks vision, imagination
  97. 2009-05-06: On May 12, vote safely: Don't give BC an STV
  98. 2019-10-26: On what electoral reform reforms

Displaying the most recent stories under politics...

On what electoral reform reforms

For the past several days, I have watched as many people miss the point on electoral reform.

Way too much effort is being spent on the question of "proportional" and not nearly enough on the question of "representation."

Changing voting systems changes voting behaviour, so one cannot simply apply the results of one system to a different system.

Poll aggregators are self-fulfilling prophecies. Voters check for local momentum where none is measured, and share that information with their networks, while the data they are using is national numbers aggregated historically to local campaigns without any measurement of the current impact of the local campaign.

The fundamental breakage of our democracy is that we have 338 local elections, but we vote in a presidential manner - as if the party name or the leader's name are what is on the ballot.

I did not win in 2015 nor lose in 2019 because we did not have a proportional or preferential system; the results I had in both cases had a great deal more to do with the national campaign and the horse race numbers than my own efforts on the ground or those of my opponents. Yet the intent of our electoral system is to send local representatives to Ottawa to work together to find common ground with others across the country (not only the province) to solve our issues together, and do so by adopting a party banner that represents the issues those representatives intend to address.

The problem, at its core, is that local representation matters less and less and national campaigns matter more and more. The two solutions are either

- to say, ok, sure, national campaigns are easier than local campaigns to run and to cover, and we group-think anyway, so let's institutionalize this system by going to a proportional model of some sort, which puts more emphasis on the party and reduces the pretence that local representatives are relevant;


- to eliminate the horse-race and national narrative in favour of encouraging each community to make its own decision, and figure out how to make local representatives become once again relevant as local representatives, bringing that power and influence back to the communities that are choosing those representatives.

It comes down to a values question: proportionality and representation are essentially mutually exclusive; which one is more important to you?

Originally posted on facebook.

essays politics 402 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 14:31 on October 26, 2019

On May 12, vote safely: Don't give BC an STV

Electoral reformers in Canada have proven time and time again that they want absolutely anything, as long as it isn't what we have. Their latest principle compromise is the referendum in BC next week, where the province will vote, for the second time, on an obscure and barely used electoral system called the Single Transferable Vote (STV). At its core is the best possible electoral system: a preferential ballot, but the proposal in BC then takes a good idea and bastardises it so totally that, were it to pass, BC could kiss representation goodbye.

The problem is simple. BC intends to turn simple, single-member ridings into massive conglomerations of unrelated communities with multiple representatives forced to compete with local politicians to keep themselves relevant. These mega-ridings will be made up of as many as seven current ridings, with seven representatives. The premise is that with multiple representatives per riding, small parties have a chance of winning where they would currently be shut out on the vote split. While there's little evidence to support this, there is a misconception that the off-chance of a fringe party winning a seat if the mega-riding is sufficiently diverse makes the electoral system "proportional." It isn't.

Were this to be in Ontario, the equivalent where I live would be to have the ridings of Guelph, Wellington Halton-Hills, Flamborough-Dundas-Ancaster, Kitchener-Conestoga, Kitchener-Centre, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Cambridge merged into one mega-riding.

It's pretty easy to see where the problems would be. In the recent federal election, Guelph had ten candidates. Between these seven ridings there would have been more than forty.

Imagine, for a moment, an all-candidates debate with forty candidates.

If you live in Georgetown, a city that is significant within the current riding of Wellington-Halton Hills, do you expect ever, in an entire 36 day campaign, to hear from any of the forty candidates in your riding when they each have every door in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, and if they get to it, Guelph to knock on?

Having gone door-to-door in the last election in Guelph, I know how difficult it is to hit every door in the city. We had an 82-day campaign, thanks to the cancellation of our by-election, and one riding. Every candidate in an STV election would normally have a 36 day campaign and seven ridings to cover, giving a maximum of five days per current riding to campaign.

It isn't rational. And if you expect your MPs to give your community any reasonable representation, you're in for a surprise under STV. Just like a campaign is likely to concentrate on vote-rich communities within a mega-riding, representation by seven people of the same riding will concentrate where the most political points can be gained. As every representative has to cover seven times as much territory -- and they all overlap, unlike today where each representative has a clearly defined limit -- small pockets of the mega-riding will be massively overrepresented, and the rest will be hard-pressed to get any attention whatsoever.

Moreover, by having overlapping ridings, as I have been told happens in Ireland one of a tiny number of countries in the world to use this system, representatives will compete with each-other to do more on the local level, and step on the toes of municipally elected politicians.

Once again, a province in Canada is voting on electoral reform that is change for the sake of change, with its proponents having failed to think through the ramifications of its adoption. Single-winner, single-riding STV, known as Instant Run-Off Voting, would be an ideal sort of system. Mashing up the province with mega-ridings, and pretending that it adds proportionality, negates any benefits of the reform and hurts the democratic representation the province deserves.

For me as someone outside of BC who thinks electoral reform should be careful and considered, not slipshod and emotional, this referendum is very important. The result of this referendum in BC has national implications. The passage of STV, were it to happen, could ultimately result in a national STV campaign. Pro-STV activists, who know the destructive effects of this system but have a stated agenda of pure proportional representation, want this to happen quickly, before BC has another election under the new system.

When BC votes next Tuesday, I urge them to consider their vote, and its ramifications carefully. Just because it is different does not make it better.

Think it through. Don't give BC an STV.

politics reform 746 words - permanent link - comments: 5. Posted at 13:22 on May 06, 2009

Auto bailout lacks vision, imagination

My column in today's Mercury addresses the strange circumstances we now find ourselves in with regards to spending about $360 per Ontarian on one of the most heavily subsidised industries in the world. To put it mildly, I am not impressed.

In one of the newscasts covering the US' debate on the auto industry bailout, a US congressman in debate asked if we should have bailed out the horse and carriage industry when the car was invented. It is mildly alliterative, but it makes the point.

There are plenty of successful auto manufacturers left in the world, many of them manufacturing their vehicles in North America while making cars that consumers actually want, instead of asking consumers to want the cars they are making*. Moreover, if we are going to bail out American auto manufacturers, what bang are we going to get for our buck? If we invest the roughly $17 billion in the US and $4 billion in Canada to keep them afloat, what will we accomplish? Will we remain world leaders in the construction of SUVs, or could we perhaps exercise just a little imagination and use these billions of taxpayer dollars that, in Canada alone, add up to around $10,000 per affected auto industry employee to become world leaders in something that needs a little leadership?

Through part of the fall, I saw one wind turbine head up Guelph's Highway 6 just about every weekday afternoon. They were offloaded in Hamilton harbour and sent north by truck. Why? Because they had to be imported from Europe; they are not manufactured in Canada.

During the Second World War, North America's industrial might was very quickly changed from the manufacture of consumer goods and vehicles to the manufacture of war machinery including trucks, tanks, aircraft, ships, weaponry, and ammunition. Is our failure of imagination so total that, in an age when technology allows us to contemplate a manned mission to another planet, we can not re-task our manufacturing sector to prepare us for a more sustainable future?

The whole process of bailouts has been broken from the outset. The US' $700 billion bailout package is largely being used to buy up bad credit from creditors so that they can once again lend money. Had the same money been used to pay off the huge consumer and mortgage debt in the US, consumer confidence would have returned in spades, the credit markets would have been re-invigorated, and millions of people would not have had their homes foreclosed. If we are going to spend taxpayer dollars to that phenomenal extent, we should at least be helping people live rather than only ensuring that bankers' profit margins are not hurt too badly.

The big concern for me is that the failure of imagination is so comprehensive that the current governing generation is taking a huge debt-load, and doubling it for my generation -- those of us born well after the war in Vietnam -- to pay off. Recent policy in Canada has been to "give back surplus tax dollars to Canadians" in the form of huge tax cuts, but only during boom times. All it serves to do is bankrupt the country so that proper, forward-thinking investment is impossible.

Canada has a long history of building itself up only to sell itself short. It is a cycle we need to break. From being world leaders in the aviation industry until the cancellation of the Avro Arrow, a crime for which I will never forgive Diefenbaker, to turning from the most prosperous country in the G8 to essentially bankrupt under another Conservative government, Canada has a long history of getting to the top of its game, and then backpedalling with apology to those that we had outshone. The bailout Canada and the province of Ontario are offering to the auto industry here, measured as a simple function of how much the US is offering in their bail out multiplied by the percentage of the industry that is in Canada, is yet another example of how we are failing where we should be leading.

The ideas are out there. A report in the Mercury a few days ago related a new study proposing a high speed rail network for the greater Toronto area, stretching from Waterloo to Orillia to Peterborough to Niagara Falls. According to the study, the network could cost as little as $4 billion -- the amount we are giving to the auto industry.

With the prospects for my generation being as dim as they are with what we are inheriting, I feel I have to call attention to the existence of the future to those currently in power, as nobody at the top seems capable of seeing beyond the tips of their own noses.

This lack of vision and foresight extends to Guelph, which at a recent council meeting voted unanimously to ask GO Transit to set up a single station in the downtown core, not setting aside any other land for use as a future station, and committing downtown to building vastly more and more expensive parking -- no doubt at the expense of further increased transit fares. To council's credit, only three members voted in favour of a motion calling on GO never to consider any additional stations in Guelph. While the "Stone Rd extension" right of way connecting one of the main east-west strips at the south end of the city with highway 24 has been set aside for generations, preparing our transit infrastructure even a few years in advance is beyond the capability of our politicians at any level. Why are we so chronically incapable of planning ahead? Is it too much to ask that we plan as far ahead for our transportation infrastructure as we do for our water usage? We do have abstract plans, but without action, it's essentially meaningless.

With that, here's today's column.

Bail-out places a second mortgage on my generation

My generation is in for the surprise of its life.

We have never endured a recession. Sure there was one in the early 1990s, but when your parents tell you at nine years old that they are on their last $20, your reaction is "that's more than I have!" So as we head into this period of economic uncertainty, what do we have to consider?

I am a firm believer in the role of government. For the economy, government's responsibility is to eliminate debt and build a reserve when times are good. When times are bad, taxes can then be lowered and we can rely on those reserves and short-term debt to invest in our national infrastructure, stimulating the economy.

Government's role is to reduce the peaks and troughs of the economic cycle. The bigger the boom, the bigger the bust, and by taxing the boom, we can mitigate the impact of the bust.

U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and president Dwight D. Eisenhower's Interstate system demonstrated this. Both took the economy out of recession through massive investment in the future. We almost had it figured out on this side of the border this time, too.

For 10 years we paid down the debt of the previous two recessions. We were making headway, but a new government came in and opted to cut taxes when the economy could actually afford the level of taxation we had.

Both Paul Martin and Stephen Harper brag about the amount they cut taxes: Martin by $120 billion, and Harper by another $200 billion. Between them, we could have almost completely paid off our debt and could have had the money to invest in public infrastructure during this recession without mortgaging my generation.

We pay in excess of $30 billion a year from the federal pot just for interest on the debt we have.

Without any debt that would be $30 billion more per year that the federal government would have to work with before going into deficit.

Our deficit is projected to be $30 billion in 2009, all of which will be borrowed to pay interest on what we have already borrowed.

The trouble is, we called our financial situation a "surplus." There is no such thing as a surplus as long as there is a debt.

Surplus is a bad word: it implies the government is taxing more than it needs.

That way of thinking considers only the here and now, it does not account for the spending done yesterday that we could not afford. Ultimately, it means we are measuring our government's financial health in terms of cash flow, not in consideration of the long term.

You and I would not reduce our income if we still have a mortgage to pay off and a retirement to plan for. Why should we do so collectively?

Government is not some mysterious institution that robs from us. It is our way, as a society, to manage ourselves and share communal costs and responsibilities.

If we, as a society, are spending more than we can afford, it is our collective responsibility to pay off the excess just as it would be for us to do personally. When governments at any level have a debt-target that is not zero per cent of GDP, we have a problem, just as much as if we abuse our credit card, or refinance our homes simply because we can, with the deliberate intention of carrying a debt that we could have paid off.

After having quickly squandered our reserves when times were good, the governments of both Canada and the United States are now preparing to give the American auto industry thousands of dollars per manufactured vehicle to keep their inefficient business models afloat. Meanwhile, their foreign competitors continue to clean up the market with better, more efficient vehicles, built for less money that cost less to maintain.

This bailout is wholly uninspired and does nothing to invest in our infrastructure or our future.

The $23 billion being spent by the governments on the two sides of the border could be put into our national infrastructure in a way that is truly meaningful while stimulating our economy.

Canada's $4 billion figure, just to bail out one industry in one province, along with all the other money governments around the world are giving to save dated business models, could instead have been invested in rethinking our approach to infrastructure.

Why are we not refocusing the industrial might of the auto sector on redefining how our cities are built, how we move around, and how we power it all?

Why are we not taking this opportunity to invest in becoming world leaders in sustainable technologies?

The auto industry has the potential to do it. We would be better served investing our billions of dollars to convert these failed manufacturers to the construction of technologies largely made elsewhere today including buses, passenger trains, wind turbines, solar panels and the like.

Purchasing the results would improve Canada's infrastructure. This would turn our automakers into world leaders in those fields, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs, and truly preparing us for the future. All it takes is vision.

Cars are not going anywhere, but they do not need to go everywhere.

Instead of paving over my generation with poorly considered short-term fiscal policies from unnecessarily emptied federal coffers, this recession could be our chance to invest wisely in our rapidly changing world.

At least then my surprised generation could contemplate a better future.

As an aside, Guelph spends a huge portion of its annual budget building and maintaining our 538 km of public roads. Mayor Farbridge's recent State of the City address confirmed this. 538 km represents approximately 4.5 metres or 14' 8" of road for each of Guelph's approximately 120,000 residents. It is 6.1 km of road per square km of city. All of those km are funded by the taxpayer and exclude the provincial highways in city limits, bridges, boulevards, traffic signals, and the other expenses we pay for to allow our cars to run. The level of subsidy for the automobile includes all these factors. By contrast, the City of Guelph turns an actual, real profit that is returned to city coffers on its railway operations. The subsidy for cars and trucks on our roads is so ingrained in our governing attitude that, in spite of the Guelph Junction Railway's profit, Guelph has, in the past, tried to convince its rail customers to switch to trucks. I suppose, given that, it is not that much of a surprise that we would seek to bail out the least profitable or visionary auto makers in the world.

* - Although I am unable to find a car I want to buy from any manufacturer to replace my venerable 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser 8-seat wagon as it approaches forced retirement. No car on the market today can seat more than five people aside from a fuel-thirsty Mercedes C350 7-seat wagon, which is a tad outside of my price range. Vehicles built on car frames rather than truck frames with a large capacity rather than the wasted space of a sedan, and bench seats up front allowing three occupants per row (something I use more than you'd think), simply do not exist any more from any manufacturer, with half-hearted attempts to correct a decade of SUV/Minivan obsession by building slightly smaller SUVs nicknamed "crossovers." Sorry folks, they're still SUVs.

columns environment money politics 2236 words - permanent link - comments: 3. Posted at 09:56 on December 30, 2008

Harper truly gives up on Quebec

Among the Senate appointments today, a former PQ MNA who served under Jacques Parizeau during the 1995 referendum. Clearly Harper's use for Quebec is at an end.

Other interesting bits from EEE-Senate-obsessed Harper: Mike Duffy, CTV reporter extraordinaire. I suppose Peter Kent needed some conservative media colleagues to join him at the Conservative caucus table.

politics 61 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 14:20 on December 22, 2008

Frank Valeriote off to a good start in the House of Commons

While all hell breaks lose in Ottawa as the Prime Minister acts too clever by half, and rumour spreads (by tories) that he is planning on sending Canada toward its constitutional minimum of one Parliamentary sitting day per year, new Guelph MP Frank Valeriote has been settling in to the House of Commons. Here are Hansard transcripts from his first interventions in the two weeks since being sworn in. Valeriote, the rookie Liberal MP for Guelph, is the Associate Critic for Industry (Automotive).

Question period, November 20th:

Mr. Francis Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, the auto sector has greatly suffered from the government's poor management of the economy and chronic neglect.

Guelph's economy is dependent upon the good jobs that come from a prosperous automotive and auto parts industry. Under the Conservatives, tens of thousands of good jobs have been lost, a situation that could have been avoided if they had a plan.

While the minister is on the road without a plan, auto workers are on the streets without a job. When will we see some real action?

Mr. Mike Lake (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that the global auto industry is facing unprecedented circumstances and the North American integrated automotive industry is no different.

The situation is changing daily. The minister is down in the U.S. right now talking to stakeholders. He has met with stakeholders here in Canada over the past couple of weeks.

The solution here needs to be a carefully considered one with a long-term view to the interests of Canadian consumers, Canadian workers, Canadian businesses and Canadian taxpayers. Any decision taken will be carefully considered in that regard.

Question period, November 26th:

Mr. Francis Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, what our auto industry needs is a coordinated, concurrent effort with the United States. Anything less than that will result in the protection of U.S. jobs at the expense of Canadian jobs. Anything less than that is only going to worsen the new Conservative deficit.

Will the Conservative Minister of Industry tell us exactly with whom in the Bush administration and in the new Obama economic team he has met to ensure that Canadian jobs are protected and not siphoned across the border?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I would remind members of the House that the president-elect, the premier of Ontario and the Prime Minister of this country are all saying the same thing. We need long-term sustainability. We do not need back of the envelope plans. We need a business plan and a business model that will work for the future. Barack Obama is saying that. Dalton McGuinty is saying that. The Prime Minister is saying that, and we are proud of our Prime Minister.

Mr. Francis Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, the Conference Board of Canada stated that Canada will lose up to 15,000 more auto assembly jobs, which means 100,000 lost jobs in total by the end of 2009, 100,000 Canadian jobs. The U.S. Congress on its own will not protect Canadian jobs. That is the responsibility of the Conservatives, but all we hear from that minister is empty rhetoric.

How much longer will workers and their families have to wait before that ineffective Conservative minister finally acts to protect the auto jobs in this country?

Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Industry, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House are serious about our auto sector and indeed the entire economy. We are not part of the ready-fire-aim gang over there. We are methodically working on the best economic strategy for this country. We are working with our stakeholders. We are working with the auto sector. Members on that side of the House have no plans, no promises, except a car tax and a carbon tax which people in Canada could not afford to pay. That is not good enough anymore.

And later on the 26th, during the debate on the throne speech:

Mr. Francis Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga--Streetsville.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to highlight some of my thoughts on the government's agenda outlined in the Speech from the Throne entitled, "Protecting Canada's Future".

It is indeed a distinct honour and privilege to have a seat in Canada's Parliament. I am profoundly grateful for the confidence that has been placed in me by the citizens of Guelph, a city in which one could not be more proud to live. It is a tremendous opportunity and privilege to serve one's own community in public office.

I want to take a moment to extend my appreciation to those individuals who devoted their time, resources and energy during my extensive 82 day election campaign. I am humbled by their contribution and inspired by their conviction.

My family has always been a source of love, guidance and support for me, and I am grateful for, and often feel undeserving of, their continued support. In particular, I want to thank my wife, Catherine, and our children, Olivia and Dominic, for their steadfast love and support as my young family continues along this journey into public life and public service.

In meeting my new colleagues from all parties, I am mindful that while we are divided geographically and politically, we are bound by a desire to serve the citizens of our constituencies and contribute to a better quality of life for those we are entrusted to represent. It is an ambitious goal, one that is essential for all of us to achieve in co-operation together.

I respect that Canadians want a Parliament that will work together to overcome the challenges that are on our doorstep. I have been successfully serving Guelph for 27 years as a lawyer, assisting people through the best and worst times of their lives. I have also had an opportunity to serve my community through many community boards and foundations. The people I have met and the organizations I have worked with along the way in Guelph have always had the foresight and commitment to face challenges, accept responsibility and plan a strategy to move towards a brighter future.

The people of Guelph and I are concerned about, even disapproving of, the Conservatives' lack of vision. In response to calls for economic prudence, we saw the Prime Minister irresponsibly eliminate the $3 billion contingency fund. In less than three years the Conservative government has become the highest spending government in Canadian history, after squandering the $13 billion surplus left to them by the previous Liberal government.

The Conservative minority government increased federal spending by more than $40 billion a year and, despite all respected economists' opinions to the contrary, cut its own vital source of revenue. In doing so, the Conservatives failed to stimulate meaningful economic growth and failed to be prepared for the slowdown they saw coming.

This economic crisis is an opportunity to embrace and invest in bold ideas and strategies that are going to translate into the jobs of tomorrow. I invite the Conservative government to take a look at Guelph for inspiration.

Maclean's magazine consistently rates the University of Guelph as Canada's foremost research university. The university is dedicated to maintaining this reputation through its intensive research-based programs, such as making plastic from non-food agricultural products, plastic that becomes car parts or packaging. Imagine farmers around Guelph feeding cities and feeding raw materials to industry in Guelph and elsewhere. Imagine the benefit for the economy and for the environment.

Innovation is exciting and full of economic opportunity. We need to make more meaningful investments and create strategic partners with those engaged in innovation and research in order to contribute to the kind of growth that will have our economy thriving. Governments need to play a more meaningful role in sponsoring university research and helping turn that research into jobs in Guelph and throughout Canada. There is little doubt that investments in university research yield significant social and economic returns. For example, Canadian economist Fernand Martin estimates that the cumulative dynamic impact of universities' contributions to the economy through research and development was at least $60 billion in 2007. We need to invest in talent, knowledge and innovation to continue to fully participate in today's competitive global and greening economy.

When I think about the next generation, a clean sustainable environment stands side by side with a prosperous economy. We have a responsibility to be mindful of our environment.

Again, I turn to Guelph for a stunning example of environmental sustainability. Last year, Guelph became a North American leader on energy management with its commitment to a 25-year community energy plan. Through the plan's challenging but realistic targets, Guelph could use less energy in 25 years than it does today, even with expected population growth of 53,000 people, and cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by nine tonnes per person. This will put Guelph among the top energy performers in the world, reduce our environmental footprint and make my riding one of the most competitive and attractive communities in which to invest.

Liberals have been saying it for years, and I repeat the message at the risk it falls on deaf ears: Sound environmental policy delivers economic prosperity.

We cannot talk about the economy of tomorrow without paying heed to Canada's struggling auto sector. Communities right across this great country were built on the back of a thriving automotive industry. Today, with the industry in crisis, we see communities rightfully distressed about the loss of the good jobs provided through automotive assembly and parts manufacturing plants and the hundreds of thousands of spinoff jobs, from office cleaners to accountants and restaurateurs, to mention a few. It will negatively affect even the charitable contributions made in our communities.

Government has a role to partner with the industry to enable this sector to survive its credit limitations and emerge an industry that is committed to transition to greener and more efficient technologies.

Guelph is an auto town. Canada is an auto country. I call on the government to send a clear message to the industry and Canadians that the Government of Canada stands shoulder to shoulder with our auto industry to protect Canadian jobs.

The people of Guelph are disappointed that the funding promised to Canada's cities and communities has been delayed. Sound infrastructure is the link between healthy cities, productivity and competitiveness. I implore the government to move forward with vital and more meaningful infrastructure investments to create jobs and address the infrastructure deficit.

It is simply unacceptable for Canada to have an infrastructure deficit that exceeds $123 billion at a time when we are depending on our cities and communities for business growth and development and jobs. Guelph needs more meaningful help to repair its infrastructure, invest in public transit and for affordable housing.

My friends across the floor have asked us for ideas. I invite my Conservative colleagues to meet with me in Guelph and talk to those in the child care and early learning profession. The experience of 35 other industrialized countries, more committed than the Conservative government to early learning and child care, tells us that early learning is designed to take an entire generation out of poverty and into prosperity, better prepare them for the knowledge based economy, help children be better adjusted and less likely to be involved in crime and allows their parents to return to work or pursue their education. The Conservatives' $100 a month has left Guelph's early childhood education and child care in crisis.

Our children deserve more. I would have thought that my Conservative peers would care more about our children.

I respect the choice that Canadians made on October 14. I look forward to working in opposition to hold the government to account for the commitments it has made.

We need a bold vision that will lead us to a larger, greener economy that will restore Canada's place in the global economy.

We live in a complex, demanding, diverse nation. We govern not only for today, but for tomorrow and beyond.

Mr. Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member opposite for his comments and intervention this afternoon.

I want to go back to his earlier remarks with regard to the surplus and so-called lack of capacity. I wonder if the member might comment on the fact that Canada, of all the G-7 countries, has the greatest fiscal position and the greatest capacity to deal with this, partly because the government over the past two and a half years has reduced debt by some $38 billion.

The $13 billion surplus that keeps being heralded here by the other side has been reduced to put in the pockets of Canadians and help put Canada's fiscal position in a better light. I wonder if the member would not agree that this has improved Canada's position to address the very situation that confronts us.

Mr. Francis Valeriote:

Mr. Speaker, the member is right. I do not agree that it puts us in a better position.

If he has seen the reports from the OECD, he will know that Canada is headed for a deeper recession than we predicted and a far deeper recession than was denied by the Conservative government.

Had the Conservatives not squandered that surplus, had they paid attention to where we were headed and had they acknowledged what was clearly in their vision, which was a deficit and a recession, they would not have reduced the GST and we would have been in a better position right now to respond to the needs of all Canadians and respond specifically to those industries that need our help right now.

Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East--Stoney Creek, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am little confused when I hear the member opposite talking about fiscal capacity when it was his leader who spoke to the Canadian Club and demanded that the government lower corporate taxes even further than it was planning on in the last budget.

Which side are you on?

The Deputy Speaker:

I would just remind the hon. member for Hamilton East--Stoney Creek to address comments through the chair and not directly to the opposite member.

Mr. Francis Valeriote:

Mr. Speaker, I am not at all against lowering corporate taxes to spark industry but lowering taxes alone is not enough. Lowering taxes for an ailing industry, all the ailing industries that are suffering right now, would be like refusing to throw a life jacket to someone who is drowning but telling them that if they get to shore they will be treated to a good meal.

I agree with lowering taxes but it is not enough. More must be done and more could have been done had the Conservative government prepared better for this deficit and for what is looming on the horizon.

Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton--Canso, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his maiden speech. I want to assure the people back in Guelph that the member has made an impact not only in a very tough situation in his own riding but an impact already not just in our caucus and as a member of our auto caucus, but in the House as well. He has brought some important issues to the House so early in his career.

We stand in this place and we talk about issues and we debate legislation and bold ideas but it is important that, as members of Parliament, we have an understanding of how these issues impact on the real lives of those back home.

As the member's community continues to wrestle with those challenges within the auto industry, how is the inactivity on the part of the government impacting on those back in his riding of Guelph?

Mr. Francis Valeriote:

Mr. Speaker, today and yesterday I have been in communication with those who are being severely impacted. Linamar Corporation has already lost 800 jobs. It has had to freeze wages and benefits. I have received letters from dealerships in Guelph that have indicated that the wheels have stopped rolling.

We are getting absolutely no response from the Conservative government. It is not coming at all to the table with a meaningful effort.

guelph politics 2731 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 11:25 on November 30, 2008

Assorted thoughts on leadership, recessions, and highways

Today is the 79th anniversary of Black Thursday, the first of three miserable days on the stock market that signalled the start of the Great Depression. With that, rules for the Liberal leadership race about to come forward, and new developments on the highway construction front, there's lots to talk about these days.

First off, let me say that, given the choice, I want this man to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

With that out of the way, down to business.

This week, Ontario posted a deficit of $500 million for the first time in a few years. I have never made any secret of my disdain for deficits, and when I see a provincial government spending more billions on building new highways than you can shake a stick at go into deficit, I really have to scratch my head.

As I have noted many times before, Guelph is currently subject of, or is close to, four major highway projects: new Highway 24 (Cambridge-Brantford), new Highway 7 (Guelph-Kitchener), new GTA West corridor (Guelph-Brampton), and realignment and upgrades to Highway 6, in four separate sections each with its own EA, from south of the 401 to north of Guelph city limits.

Last night was the 4th Public Information Centre for the first of the four sections of Highway 6 to be upgraded. I am disappointed to, again, see no consideration whatsoever for the need to connect the Hanlon industrial park to the nearby rail network, which would involve crossing the Hanlon near one of the interchanges being proposed and therefore would need at least some level of planning or preparation within this environmental assessment. The changes proposed in PIC #4 for the Hanlon in their latest "preferred plan" call for a two-way service road to run between Stone and Downey Rd on the west side of the Hanlon, connecting up to Woodland Glen Dr., and the associated construction of a large retaining wall through several back yards along Old Colony Trail.

From a traffic flow perspective, it's definitely an improvement over previous plans, but from an environmental and social perspective for that area, it's a definite setback. This never-ending balancing act is frustrating to me.

I maintain that the investment in highways is a colossal waste of money if we are not also investing to at least the same level in transit infrastructure, which here and now necessarily means rail. If the as-yet unbuilt Hanlon industrial park were to connect to rail, which could be accomplished for the cost of one or two interchanges on the highway, the highway improvements would have a net long term benefit. The rail access would allow businesses to come to this industrial park to get material out of their trucks and onto the tracks, not just move it between trucks. I am all for road infrastructure improvements that help people and businesses get off the roads, but against highways for the sake of highways. Similarly, if passenger service were restored to the line between Guelph and Hamilton, some of the car pressures on Highway 6, which runs parallel to the nearly unused tracks for the entire affected area, would be reduced.

I found out just yesterday that there is an environmental assessment public information centre on Tuesday the 28th from 5-8pm at the Springfield Golf and Country Club on Gordon discussing upgrades to Maltby Rd, which would be an ideal right of way to connect the Guelph Junction Railway to the Hanlon industrial parks with minimal cost or disruption. Tracks could easily run on the edge of the road within its right of way.

With the recession coming very much as I predicted a couple of years ago, dead-end highway projects like the Halon may finally be put on hold. Given half a moment of reflection, if we are going to go into deficit to finance infrastructure and create jobs, then we should be doing so in such a way as to have high capacity, low environmental impact, low cost transportation solutions running at the other end of the recession. It remains my belief that our existing road system would be adequate if we invested properly in rail transportation rather than heavily subsidising roads while leaving rail to fend for itself.

The reality is, though, that we will continue to rip up rails in Canada and build highways nearby. This week, work began in ripping out the Kinghorn subdivision, a 195-mile railway line that was abandoned in 2005 connecting Longlac to Thunder Bay. The track itself was primarily used as a detour route in the event of problems in northern Ontario, but its removal demonstrates that we, collectively, have still not learned our lesson in rail removal. While difficult to prove, I believe Canada remains one of the few countries, if not the only one, left in the entire world still ripping out more railway lines than we are putting in.

Earlier this week, the first federal leader of a party to meaningfully recognise this reality and put it in a platform, was pushed out of the leadership of his party in a victory of politics over policy. The Liberal platform this past election included huge sums for infrastructure, and a plan to ban the removal of railway lines like the Kinghorn sub. While this horse has largely left the barn, the Kinghorn sub demonstrates that it is never too late to close this barn door.

This leads me to my next point, which is about the leadership of the Liberal party.

We should have rules handed down soon about the structure and length of the third Liberal leadership race in recent years within a few days. While pithy, Jamie's assessment is bang on and I hope some of the suggestions in his post are reflected in the rules.

Personally, I would like to see 50% of all donations to each leadership campaign be handed over to the party in lieu of a deposit, and no spending cap coupled with a ban on coming out with any debt whatsoever. We need a leader capable of fundraising as much as any other skill, and that is one way to weed out poor fundraisers. The debt lesson is a hard learned one as some of the last round of leadership candidates still have not finished paying theirs off, and I would suggest that to enforce such a no debt requirement, any candidate who still has outstanding leadership debt by the time they reach the convention be excluded from the ballot.

And on the topic of enforcement, you can read my latest presentation, this one to the Guelph Police Services Board on Thursday the 16th on behalf of the Community Volunteer Patrol, an organisation you should get involved with.

And by the way, why do so many drivers not normally get winter tires that requiring them in one province could cause such a massive shortage?

elections environment guelph highways leadership money musings politics transit 1155 words - permanent link - comments: 3. Posted at 10:35 on October 24, 2008

Election post-mortem

If I were writing the headlines this morning, and I were as biased as many papers seem to be around elections, my headline would read something to the effect: "'Not a Leader' keeps 'Cuddly Sweater Man' to minority." It was a long, tough battle in Guelph, with an 82-day campaign. Our writ was dropped on July 25th for a September 8th by-election, cancelled on September 7th, and postponed to October 14th. But our Liberal newcomer Frank Valeriote pulled it off and Guelph, almost alone in Southwest Region, stayed red.

While I did not get home from the victory celebration until almost 3 this morning, I should note that not a single one of the opposing candidates had the grace to congratulate Valeriote last night. I have a lot of thoughts about this election, both locally and nationally, to share.

I spent a good deal of the campaign volunteering, doing everything from sign crew to door-to-door to work in the office. I haven't really slept much since July. Our campaign had no paid staff on it, yet plenty of people there seven days a week. The hard work paid off as we defeated three strong candidates and six fringe candidates. Indeed, Guelph's campaign was the longest of any in the country, tied with St-Lambert and Westmount at 82 days. We had the most candidates of any riding at 10. We had the most high profile candidates, at four. As a complete aside, I want to note that several members of the campaign, including the Campaign Manager, CFO, and director of communications, along with many others, do not drive and in most cases don't have driver's licenses. That a campaign can function and win in those conditions makes me proud of our community's ever-improving transit system.

While much was made of the Green campaign in Guelph, I have to hand it to the Green supporters who think more clearly than the campaign they supported. While Greens in Guelph clearly felt they could take this riding early on, the results show them a distant third, ahead of the NDP, but well behind the second-place Conservatives. Greens and NDPers both understood the message about vote splitting, and I believe came through for the riding and the country in uniting to defeat our Conservative candidate here.

As a result of vote splitting and wide-spread strategic voting, however, Greens and NDPers especially will continue to raise proportional representation as an issue, under the guise of discussing electoral reform. As one who worked very closely on the campaign to defeat mixed-member proportional in Ontario, I will once again offer a compromise to proponents of electoral reform. I will meet you half way between STV and SMP, and support IRV, a system that would eliminate vote splitting and strategic voting, without introducing new problems to our democracy.

The NDP nationally, on the other hand, nearly achieved their goal. I have long believed that Jack Layton's goal has not so much been to become leader of the opposition, but to ensure a Stephen Harper majority. Having spent most of his campaign trying to unseat Liberals, even where the NDP itself had no chance of winning, Layton worked hard to ensure an unrestrained far right government which could ultimately lead to an extreme far left government in response to it with Jack Layton at the helm. For a party that claims to want to work with the other parties, as it does every time it offers during an election to be a coalition partner, it works very hard not to cooperate with anyone.

The Greens are going to be interesting to watch over the next couple of years. I expected them to sweep the protest vote nationally this election and come out much closer to the NDP at the end of the day. But I believe the Greens nationally understood that a vote for the Greens right now is a vote against action on climate change, and so ballot box guilt cost a lot of their support. The Greens will, however, need to ask themselves what they need to do to get their leader in the House. Running against an entrenched Conservative MP who is one of the few members of the Conservative caucus who would make strong leadership candidates when Harper moves on was not a brilliant strategic move for the party, but I appreciate the Green Party leader's decision not to run against any Liberal or NDP candidates where should would risk hurting progressives. While in any other party, with the possible exception of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, her decision would probably cost her the leadership of her party, I believe that what she accomplished in this election far exceeds what she lost. But to really make a difference, and they will hate me for saying so, I believe the Green Party should fold, and join the Liberal Party en masse, taking over some riding assocations and their policy committees, and using the vehicle of the Liberal Party to push through an agenda we largely share in common, rather than continuing an unnecessary national division.

The Conservatives, too, will have to do some soul searching. While conventional wisdom is that Stephane Dion was the big loser last night, in my opinion it was Stephen Harper. While he kept his own expectations down, he showed that with a carefully managed campaign where the public was not invited to a single campaign event from day one to voting day, where he spent millions of dollars successfully personally destroying his opponent outside of a writ period where there are few restrictions on spending, where his main opponents were essentially flat broke, and where his secondary opponents were working primarily to unseat his main opponent, he could not win a majority. If not against a broke Liberal party with what Conservatives see as a weak leader in Dion at the helm, then Consrvatives will have to ask themselves how they will ever win a majority. The answer they will come to will ultimately be: through a more centrist and less abrasive leader.

My sense of how things would go at the start can be summarised fairly simply. I felt that Canadians, by-and-large, wanted a majority government, and didn't really care who got it. The Conservatives' gaffes, with the exception of the arts and culture cuts, didn't stick. People didn't care, they just wanted an end to the minorities, something they still did not get.

The number of times I heard at the door and elsewhere through this campaign that "all politicians are liars" and therefore "I'm voting Conservative" really caught me off guard. There is only one party that ran a campaign based completely on lies, manipulation, and deceit, and people chose it over a party that offered a clear vision and honest assessment of where we needed to go and how we would get there, because they are tired of lies, manipulation, and deceit.

This brings me to our own federal party. Readers of this blog will know that I was a strong supporter of Dion through the leadership race, and have remained loyal to him since. I still strongly believe he is the only leader in the House who has any kind of vision or true leadership skills. He is not an eloquent speaker in English, but nor is Harper an eloquent speaker in French. That, to me, is his only major flaw. While we can thank Mike Duffy for throwing Ontario -- numbers in Ontario collapsed after his partisan intervention in the campaign -- people looking objectively at the video clip he posted would realise that the interviewer asked Dion a question, Dion asked for clarification ("if I were PM 2 and a half years ago?"), the interviewer repeated his initial question instead of simply agreeing to the clarification, and slipped on his answer, so asked to reanswer the question. Why that is such a big deal to people, I am not sure. I don't think there are many politicians or interviewers who have never restarted an interview. That all said, Dion's leadership is in danger. If we lose him, we will likely get some eloquent speaker with no vision or true leadership skills other than an ability to crack a whip, and people will rejoice that we have "a leader," while pretending that someone other than Dion would have done amazingly better this election. Against today's financial machine of the Conservative party, I do not see how any winner of the 2006 leadership race would have fared any better. Dion's numbers spiked after the debates. The number of times I heard complaints about Dion's leadership dwindled. It was the first chance Canadians had ever had to meet the real Dion and they liked what they saw. If perceptions were based on reality, not on smears and attacks, we would have a very different outcome.

Which leads me to my next point: money. The Liberal Party has precisely one thing to do between now and the next election. The party must convince every supporter in every part of the country who can afford to give a dime to the cause to give that dime. The party needs money to fight elections and inter-election battles. Millions of Canadians who believe in the Liberal cause must be asked to put their money where their mouth is. We have to learn to out-fundraise our opponents, and we have the base to do it if we make that our priority. That politics is decided by money and not ideas sickens me, but that is the context in which we must learn to fight.

The Conservatives spent millions of dollars on ads between elections, something that the Liberals simply couldn't afford to do. It had an obvious and direct effect as they beat the Liberals to the punch in defining the new Liberal leader by doing so, both immediately after the leadership convention and immediately before the general election. This problem would have been essentially mooted by having a well-financed party that could have fought back. It is your responsibility, and your friends, your family, and your neighbours, to ensure that this does not ever happen again.

But this brings us to a problem. I remember reading or hearing an analysis of attack advertising some years ago. It went something like this: If Wendy's released an ad saying Harvey's burgers were made of mice, then people would stop eating Harvey's burgers. If Harvey's responded by saying Wendy's burgers are made of rats, then people would stop eating Wendy's burgers. The result, ultimately, would be that people would stop eating burgers.

This approach to politics, more than any other factor I believe, is leading to the increasingly pathetic voter turnout we are seeing in elections. It isn't that people are disaffected by the nonsense of the "wasted vote" as some would have you believe, it is that voters are tired of having to choose between rats and mice. Elections should be fought on ideas first, last, and always, but almost never are. They're fought on personality, sound bites, and scored points. The result, ultimately, is that we all lose, every time. As Chretien used to like saying, "when you throw mud, you lose ground." This election was one of the dirtiest ever. With hate ads personally attacking the Liberal leader and offering no substantive reason for doing so dominating the airwaves, and with at least five Liberal ridings having homes and vehicles severely vandalised, in many cases resulting in a direct threat to life and limb, we have reached a new low in Canada.

Now that we have a Conservative government again, what becomes of policies like the Green Shift? My bet is that the Conservatives bring in a very similar but somewhat weakened policy that will not be revenue neutral in an effort to stem the tide of deficit that they have brought on us, early on in their mandate, and claim credit for it as the best idea since sliced bread. Nothing was made of the presence of a cap-and-trade system in the Conservative Party's hastily drawn up platform at the end of the campaign.

If Obama wins next door next month, this could well be the first extended period of time in which we have a Democratic president at the same time as a Conservative government. As Conservative governments tend to draw us closer to US foreign policy, this will have a tendency to limit the damage that Harper can cause to Canada if he is there for any length of time.

As we look toward the next election, which will not be more than a couple of years out, we must consider how we will go about winning. As I said before, fundraising is the key. For a party with the support and history that the Liberal Party has to be essentially out of money is ridiculous. For my friends who blog, but who make no other contribution to the party, I will say it very simply: you are not doing your part.

We have to work together to rebuild the party from the inside out, financially and organisationally. Chretien's return at the very end of the campaign was a sign of things to come and I believe the Liberal Party has woken up to the fact this morning that it really is only one party, not two, and needs to act that way if it hopes to return to power.

May we continue to live in interesting times.

elections politics 2250 words - permanent link - comments: 5. Posted at 10:41 on October 15, 2008

Day 76... 6 to go

We're now up to no fewer than 5 ridings having Liberal supporters' cars intentionally disabled, with Mississauga-Streetsville and Niagara Falls joining in. Yesterday also saw the introduction of the Conservative party's platform, and Guelph's televised candidates' debate, with 9 of our 10 candidates attending.

I read the entire Conservative platform shortly after it came out. It struck me as a slipshod document that the war room threw together after hearing Harper announce that there would be a platform available in a few days. It's not well organised as a document, and offers nothing of substance to a country struggling under the weight of a weakened economy.

The Guelph debate last night was rather bland. As we had so many candidates, only six questions were asked from the floor during the two hours of debate, at least five of which were asked by known partisans, three of those Conservatives. For the first time in this 3-month campaign, and to the chagrin of the Green candidate, the room was not stacked with Green supporters. I had not planned on asking a question, but I drew a number from the hat for kicks and was more than a little surprised to pull out the '1'. So I asked a question that I think should be asked in every riding at all levels of government. I first heard a variation of this question asked by someone else in a debate in the municipal election here in 2006:

Do you live in this riding? If so, do you believe candidates should have the right to run in a riding in which they do not live? If not, why are you running here?

At least three of Guelph's 10 candidates do not live in the riding, and it seems to me with such a requirement our ballot would be somewhat more manageable, aside from my personal disdain for the practice of parachuting candidates. One candidate chose to take it personally, describing me as "Frank's assistant" which is not entirely accurate, though I do volunteer for him and believe he is far and away the best man for the job of the 10 people on our ballot, before saying that he does not live in the riding but has close ties to it, and that he was nominated in Guelph-Wellington before the 2003 redistribution. That's fine, but when Guelph-Wellington was redistributed, it is disingenuous to suggest that he had to run in Guelph, as he still lived in one of the two resulting ridings: Wellington-Halton Hills, and could have run there (perhaps leaving Guelph to his stronger provincial counterpart, Ben Polley). Later, that same candidate declared his opposition to strategic voting, but by this earlier answer admitted that he believes in strategic running. Running in a riding where you believe you can win rather than one in which you live is opportunism, pure and simple.

On the topic of strategic voting, I do believe it makes sense to work within the electoral system you have, and not live in some dreamland where a different system exists in your head, but not on the ballot. Strategic voting in Single Member Plurality is a necessity when the ballot is over-crowded with people with similar values who have abstract reasons for running against, rather than with, eachother. Would I like reform? Ya, I think we should have a preferential ballot and make some other structural changes, but not throw the baby out with the bathwater as proportional representation advocates would like us to do. But that is not the system we have here and now, and we must work within the context of what we do have.

elections politics 612 words - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 10:14 on October 08, 2008

There is no morning-after pill for federal elections

In the five days since I submitted my latest column for today's Mercury, a lot has changed. Stephane Dion owned the French debate, Harper has been accused of plagiarising no fewer than three speeches, Liberal supporters in two Toronto ridings have had their homes vandalised and their lives endangered through damage to their cars exactly as happened in Guelph six weeks ago. But one key thing hasn't changed: Harper and the Conservatives, in spite of all evidence that they are permanently unfit to govern, still lead in the polls.

While Vote for Environment, a website dedicated to helping people reconcile split votes into a non-Conservative MP, warns that Guelph is one of the hottest ridings in the country, some people in Guelph point to an obviously bogus poll released by the Green party during the by-election showing themselves a distant second as evidence that this is not the case.

During the leaders' debate last week, Elizabeth May stated that her top priority for the country is electoral reform. We need proportional representation, she asserted, preempting any policy issues like the economy or the environment. I can understand the sentiment, but not the priority. Under single-member plurality, the proper name for what we have today, we have this problem with vote splitting. But it is the system we have, and the system that we will have on voting day next week. I am in favour of electoral reform, although against proportional "representation," and look forward to that national debate, but it is not the number one priority of this country.

While I am generally sympathetic to the Green Party and believe they have a major role to play in our democracy, their push for proportional representation irks me greatly. The notion was soundly defeated with nearly identical margins in referenda in PEI and Ontario and will be nationally if presented nationally. The electoral system we should be turning to is the one used by the lower house in Australia known there as Alternate Vote, or Instant Run-Off vote. It is, or is similar to, the system all parties use to select their candidates and leaders, and benefits the voter first, the party second. It gives constituents the right to choose their MP without worrying about vote splitting, without giving MPs the right to choose their constituents as proportional representation does. I also believe in other reforms, such as the banning of candidates from running in ridings in which they do not live, and the elimination of much of the role of the Party Whip.

My latest article to the Mercury bears this disclaimer: Editor's note: Community Editorial Board columnist David Graham is a member and supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada. He has volunteered with the Frank Valeriote campaign in this federal election.

It is true. I am a Liberal, and I put my money where my mouth is. I have never made a secret of that. I joined the Liberal party and volunteer for it because I believe it is the party best suited and most capable of governing this country, and I believe by being a member of it, and serving on its policy committees and in elections, I can help steer it toward the most productive policies, something I cannot do from the outside or by working against it.

Anyway, my column...

We can't afford another Conservative government

There is no morning-after pill for federal elections.

With the very real threat that we will wake up Oct. 15 to find ourselves tied to Stephen Harper, we have to ask ourselves: do we want this man who violates his own laws, while denigrating his opponents, to be in charge of our country and our economy?

Aside from the disdain he has shown for the rule of law by suing Elections Canada, the world-renowned organization responsible for ensuring our democracy, he is the leader of the first governing party in Canadian history to have its headquarters raided by the RCMP and has called this election in violation of his own fixed election date law.

Under that law, we were not scheduled to go to the polls until October 2009. As we know here in Guelph, our byelection was cancelled the day before we were to go to the polls, as Mr. Harper evidently feared losing here.

There are few countries in the world where elections are cancelled when the leader fears the result. Canada now counts itself among the members of this exclusive club.

Harper inherited a booming Canadian economy and a well-balanced federal budget from the Liberals less than three years ago. At the time, our economy was stronger than that of our neighbour to the south, and was the strongest of the G8.

Now, as the United States prepares to bail out an economy on the verge of collapse, we find ourselves with no more budget surplus in Canada and an economy no stronger than theirs.

This Conservative government has raised billions of dollars through the wireless spectrum auction and by selling off government assets to lease them back. The effect of this is to put extra money in the budget now, from the sale of our assets, and increase our expenses later by having to pay to lease them back.

It is a budgetary time bomb.

The claim that our federal budget is actually balanced is highly dubious. If we count the assets the Harper government has quietly sold, we are likely already in a substantial deficit.

Harper's actions are the equivalent of selling your house to pay off your mortgage.

This fits the pattern of federal Conservatives through this country's history.

By the end of Brian Mulroney's government, Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio had achieved its worst peacetime level since the Great Depression, something Jean Chrtien's Liberals had to remedy in their first term in office.

Before this current Conservative government squandered the healthy budgetary surplus left to them, the last time a Conservative government balanced a budget was in 1912, the year the Titanic sank.

Since then, not a single economic boom has taken place in Canada under a Conservative government, and that trend is set to continue under Harper.

We have seen this movie before.

The job losses in Ontario since Harper came to power in 2006 add up to more people than there are working in Guelph, after a decade of unprecedented growth under the Liberals.

We cannot afford Harper for the next four years. The last time we made the mistake of giving the Conservatives power, the result was a $40-billion deficit and a strong separatist movement in Quebec.

We sent a clear message and soundly rejected this approach to managing Canada then by leaving only two lonely Progressive Conservative MPs in the House. We should learn from our mistakes.

In Guelph, our choice is clear. We have a city councillor who claims she will take our voice to Ottawa, but she has already demonstrated that instead she will be Harper's voice here in Guelph.

Asked by this paper for her opinion on Guelph resident Steven Truscott's compensation for his wrongful murder conviction, she referred the matter to Stephen Harper's office to answer for her.

As a long-time member of council, one would expect her leadership on council to bring about the support of her colleagues, but at this time not one sitting member of council has endorsed her candidacy.

Voting for the Green candidate in Guelph, who does not live in our riding, does nothing to push Green values forward. As Elizabeth May herself said recently, she would "rather have no Green seats and Stephen Harper lose, than a full caucus that stares across the floor at Stephen Harper as prime minister, because his policies are too dangerous."

The reality in Guelph is that this riding is a swing riding, not the safe Liberal seat that some seem to believe. Voting for the Green candidate only helps ensure that the Conservatives carry this riding on the split environmental vote, and that the cause of environmentalism and good government is set back for years to come.

When you cast your ballot next week, consider the true ramifications of your vote.

You cannot take it back if you do not like the result.

columns elections guelph politics 1377 words - permanent link - comments: 1. Posted at 10:26 on October 06, 2008

Vandals threaten the lives of more Liberal supporters

Six weeks after vandals tried to kill Liberals in Guelph, they've done it in exactly the same way to Liberals in Toronto. Anyone still think it's random violence?

To add to the "coincidence," the Guelph attack took place exactly eleven days before by-election voting day, and the Toronto attack took place exactly eleven days before the general election voting day. h/t Scott.

elections politics 70 words - permanent link - comments: 9. Posted at 12:14 on October 05, 2008

Day 50 of the Guelph campaign

With only 32 days left to voting day, it's just about the home stretch.

Yesterday, Guelph NDP candidate Tom King said "I consider (the Liberals) to be in the same bed as Stephen Harper." The irony and hypocrisy are palpable in light of the exposure of collusion between Stephen Harper and Jack Layton to keep the Greens out of the federal debate.

In the same article, Green campaign manager Stan Kozak is purported to have said, paraphrased by the paper, that "none of the major parties have ever advocated for proportional representation, which means they're not serious about working together." This grates me particularly because it is the push for proportional representation itself that tells me that the Green party is not sincere about democratic values.

A single-winner, single-seat preferential ballot would offer more honest choices to electors and would have my unqualified support. The system would allow most-liked instead of least-disliked candidates to win as strategic voting is weakened. Preferential balloting allows voters to always vote for who they truly want to win, without ever worrying about voting for someone they don't like to keep out someone they really don't like. Preferential balloting allows them to make a statement about a particularly bad candidate by ranking them dead last on their ballot.

Proportional representation offers none of this. It is all about dis-empowering and unrepresenting voters to the benefit of political parties. Under proportional representation, an MP is not entitled to exercise judgement of his or her own. The system works by eliminating ridings as we know them, and putting the whole country on list systems. Parties provide lists to Elections Canada, voters vote for the parties, and seats are assigned as a proportion of the vote. 30% of the vote in a 300-member parliament means 90 seats, with no geographic requirements.

But who are those 90 people? Under proportional representation, it does not matter who they are; they could be chicken sandwiches, because they have no effect on the decision making process, they exist only to rubber stamp the policies of their parties. The demographic representation in parliament could improve, but it would be hollow. A parliament made up of 50% women who are completely muzzled is not an improvement over a parliament with 25% women who are free to speak their minds. Under proportional representation, they do not represent anyone but their party and have no recourse if they step out of line. While having 50% (or perhaps more) of parliament be empowered women would be hugely beneficial to the function of government, proportional representation completely misses the mark.

If an MP from a list system is kicked out of caucus, they lose the legitimacy of having a seat in parliament at all. They do not represent a constituency, only a party list, and have no recourse to re-election outside of that list. Someone ranked highly on a party's list has no danger of not being returned to parliament.

But I can see the appeal of this to the Green Party in Guelph, whose own candidate does not even live in the riding. Their slogan here is "Guelph is Going Green," their message clearly that they want the Green Party represented in Guelph, not Guelph represented in Ottawa.

While the Liberal candidate here has made it clear in that same article that a cooperative left-of-Harper movement is needed and worthwhile, the Greens and the NDP candidate in Guelph and the NDP's leadership have shown that the only cooperation they are interested in is collusion to break the fabric of our democracy, the NDP by working with the Conservatives to keep out the Greens, and the Greens by pushing to take the weak electoral system we have and turn it into a completely dysfunctional one.

politics reform 631 words - permanent link - comments: 7. Posted at 09:30 on September 12, 2008

45 days down, 37 to go

Well, as everyone who doesn't live under a rock by now knows, Harper has seen fit to cancel four byelections whose results he was afraid of in violation of his own fixed election date law. Here in Guelph, that means we're 45 days down, 37 to go. Tomorrow was meant to be election day. How symbolic for Mr. Harper to take a fleet of SUVs across the street to Rideau Hall to run over us all.

elections guelph politics 82 words - permanent link - comments: 4. Posted at 22:24 on September 07, 2008

Vandals threaten the lives of Liberal supporters in Guelph

The escalation in Guelph is dramatic. Last night, over night, someone, or some group, went to all parts of the city vandalising homes with Liberal party by-election signs out front. Houses were spraypainted with slogans on the brickwork, garage, doors, and windows. But worse, much worse, is the fact that these cowards keyed the cars in the driveways with 'L' and cut the brake lines in the cars in the driveways. At least six cars are known to have had their brake lines cut. This is wreckless endangerment. Disabling the brakes on cars is a direct threat to life and limb and is way beyond the realm of acceptibility.

graffiti1 brakeline1

This is completely beyond the pale. The night of my post last week about my lawn sign walking off in front of my nose, my own car was tagged with whipped cream. The intimidation level in Guelph is getting to an incomprehensible point.

Tagging homes and cars with an 'L' is clearly an attempt to label people in a deragatory way, reminiscent of many an oppressive rgime.


elections guelph politics 185 words - permanent link - comments: 60. Posted at 22:33 on August 29, 2008

Community service like no other

Here's my column in today's Mercury on the Guelph by-election.

We need a strong advocate for transit

London North Centre MP Glen Pearson was once described by Maclean's magazine as the last decent man in Ottawa.

His years of tireless work on issues he cares about, and his humble mission to accomplish rather than to take credit, looking for accomplishment rather than attention, has earned him this respect and reputation.

Frank Valeriote, the candidate for the Liberal party in Guelph's federal byelection, is another man cut from the same cloth.

Decades of community service, both at home and abroad, have earned him an enviable list of accomplishments and enormous respect. He has served the public in Guelph since the early 1980s.

With a budget comparable to the city government and equally difficult decisions, Valeriote sat on -- and for several years chaired --the local Catholic school board, forging unprecedented co-operation with the public school board. His list of volunteer commitments, overseas mission work, and unheralded contributions to Guelph is extensive enough to fill its own page of a paper.

Valeriote has never worried about his profile or his image in the city. He just does what needs doing without fanfare, and feels no need to brag about it outside of the context of an election.

He is not asking to go to Ottawa for himself. He is not looking for glory, and as a long-practising and successful lawyer, he is not going for job stability. He is asking to go to Ottawa very simply to represent Guelph, Guelph's needs, Guelph's issues, and Guelph's residents, not himself.

Valeriote is all about principle, not about power for the sake of power.

As I have made clear many times, my number 1 issue for the future of this region is transit.

When considering the land-use demands, energy requirements, tax-dollar strain, and general economics of cars and trucks as compared to buses and trains, it is hard to see how our current path is really sustainable. Shifting our way of thinking about our way of moving will take serious, long-term leadership and the placement of principle ahead of politics.

While none of the candidates is making a point of sending his or her sign crews out on city buses, all claim to support transit.

The NDP, the party whose provincial wing cancelled GO train service to Guelph 15 years ago, even brought Leader Jack Layton here specifically to tell us how they would fund city transit. Their solution is simple: tie transit funding to car use through gas-tax based funding.

If we drive bigger cars more, we will burn more gas, pay more gas tax, and fund transit better. If we drive enough to fund transit properly, we will no longer need to drive, and transit will lose its funding. It's not quite how I envision the future of transit.

The Conservative candidate here also made a point of saying she supports transit, but it does not take much digging to find evidence directly contradicting that. Apparently Gloria Kovach believes 40-minute bus service is preferable, as earlier this year she voted against instituting 20-minute service in the city as a member of city council.

So the question for me is pretty straightforward. If I want a candidate who will be in a position to support transit, who can I look to?

Valeriote fits that bill, too. As a candidate for the only party that has a serious and immediate plan for the environment, that recognizes that environmentalism is primarily an economic argument, Valeriote, who has stated his own support for the future of transit, will be in a position in Parliament to push, and push hard, for increased transit planning and funding.

If you are trying to decide who to vote for on Sept. 8, and like me you believe that the country needs to move forward with real, honest new policy and not power for the sake of power, Frank Valeriote is your man.

I want a member of Parliament who cares about Guelph, cares about the environment, and will be in a position to do something about both. Only one candidate fits that bill.

Why settle for anything less? I recommend a strong show of support for this man of character, accomplishment, principle, and vision on Sept. 8. We owe it to ourselves.

columns elections environment guelph politics transit 726 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 10:35 on August 23, 2008

What the ....

I just glanced out the window a few minutes ago in time to watch a long, loose-haired caucasian guy in his twenties pass my driveway, pick up my lawn sign, and nonchallantly walk on. By the time I got out to the road to see where he went he was gone, along with my sign, in broad daylight. Unbelievable.

elections guelph politics 62 words - permanent link - comments: 0. Posted at 12:29 on August 20, 2008

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