Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Prime Ministers Song

A quick and humorous political history lesson

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Federal Government spent money on this

I am rather horrified to find this badly done videos on a Youtube channel for the Prime Minister, but this one is one that really crosses the line.   Laureen Harper is not elected to anything so why is anyone in the government make a pointless pap video like this about her?  

There is nothing about this that makes life better for anyone in Canada

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Regional results from latest EKOS poll

I find this chart from the latest EKOS poll interesting

Overall the regional results have been reasonably consistent over the four polls EKOS has conducted since the new year.   

Clearly Alberta and Saskatchewan will remain strong Conservative and Atlantic Canada Liberal.   Ontario is a serious battle ground.   Though what I find interesting is the four way tie in Quebec and the Liberal lead in BC.

I had not expected to see the four parties tied in Quebec.   The Liberals and Conservatives are at roughly the same levels of support they saw in 2008, the Bloc is in the range of their 2011 results.  The NDP are down from 2011, so what will this mean in Quebec?

Here in BC EKOS keeps having the Liberals in the lead but organizationally on the ground the party is not nearly as evident as their polling numbers would indicate.   I wonder if the Liberal support in BC is weak or are people parking their vote?  One reason I wonder if parking the vote is the case is because 5% of people in BC answered some other party.  Another reason I wonder is because I am not hearing an enthusiastic endorsement of Trudeau in BC.

In BC the support for the Green has been very stable at between 15% and 17% over the four polls.   this is higher than the Liberals achieved in 2011 and only marginally behind their 2008 vote.

 The sample size is in BC is between 400 to 450 so it is large enough to tell us something, I just do not know what it is telling us.

Why did Alberta not have a game plan for low oil prices? Why did they spend $56 billion more than they needed to over the last seven years?

Alberta has had a serious windfall in oil revenues for the last decade or so and somehow they did not set themselves up to look after the province for the long term.   When the oil boom started about ten years ago government program spending per capita in Alberta rose much faster than other provinces.   The windfall was sucked up into an expanding government and not saving for the future.

It has only taken one drop in the price of oil for the budget of Alberta to go from a surplus to a huge deficit.   Yes, the drop has been dramatic but based on long term commodity price trends, not unexpected.

There was a famous bet between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich made in 1980 about commodity prices in ten years time.   Julian Simon bet there would be no rise while Paul Ehrlich bet there would be.   Simon won the bet in 1990.  Commodity prices have been up and down over the decades but it is actually interesting to see how little the commodity prices have not been ahead of inflation.
Price of a barrel of WTI oil in Canadian dollars from Jan 1986 to Feb 2015
Since 1986 Canadian inflation has been 86%,  The price of oil at the start of 1986 was $35 per barrel, which would be $65 per barrel now and the roughly the current price.  From 1986 to today the price of oil has been significantly ahead of inflation in only nine out of the last 28 years.   In eight of the years oil has significantly fallen in price.

I know some people will say this is a temporary blip downwards, that peak oil is here and the price is going to skyrocket again shortly but I disagree.  Oil is a product that is very sensitive to supply and demand.  As soon as there is a shortage of supply the price rises but businesses find ways to use less oil while at the same time a lot more oil can be extracted because it is financially viable.   New technology has made various oil sources much cheaper to extract.   So as the price rises again, there is a lot of new oil that come onto the market.   In the long term oil will be cheaper than people expect.

Alberta ignored basic economics when it did not use something like $40 to $50 per barrel as the long term stable price of oil.  The bonus revenues should have been set aside in the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund but that has not been done.   In 2014 the fund had about $17.3 billion, not something more like the $50 billion to $120 billion that it should have had.   Alberta used the oil revenues for short term political favour and not long term planning.   In ten years from 1998/99 to 2008/09 Alberta doubled their per capita program spending.   BC, Ontario and Quebec did not have anywhere close to the same rise in program spending.

If the money had been set aside as should have been Alberta would have able to have a secure and consistent source to borrow money from for public infrastructure at rates the province could set.   What we see instead is a province in panic as the provincial spending will have to be dramatically cut.

As it stands, the government of Alberta costs a lot more to operate than the other three large provinces in Canada.   Alberta spends $2000 per person more than BC and $3000 more per person that Quebec.   Alberta has been spending about $7 to $10 billion per year than they should be for the last at least seven years..   One would think the NDP was in power in Alberta.   The only two provinces that spend significantly more per capita are Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan - both right wing governments.

Spending an average extra $8 billion per year for seven years is $56 billion.   $56 billion that did not need to be spent.   What does Alberta have to show for this $56 billion?

The only think Alberta does well on is direct provincial debt, it has none, the only province to be in that situation, but this will change suddenly.  During the last extended period of stable but low oil prices Alberta went from a large surplus to having more debt than BC had under Mike Harcourt at the same time.   Given the lack of any fiscal discipline in Alberta over the last 30 years, there is no reason to expect the province to change now.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In 2015 it might be time to pay some attention to the Libertarian party

It is eight months till the 2015 federal election and the Libertarian Party already has 45 candidates nominated(1).   In the last 11 elections they have at best managed to nominate 88 candidates in 1988.   45 is already more candidates than what they have run in the six elections.   There could be a chance they will  run a full slate(2) and that would be an important change to the 2015 election and possibly harm the Conservatives.

It will be interesting to see what the impact of a full slate by the Libertarians might have on the election.   The one group of Conservatives, above all others, that Stephen Harper has disappointed are libertarians.   People had hoped for a secret libertarian agenda once the government had a majority but quickly found out this was not going to happen.

My expectation for the 2015 election is that most libertarians would have decided to stay home or reluctantly voted for the Conservatives.  With a full slate from the Libertarian Party of Canada there is a place for people to protest the status quo and have it reflect their values.

Tim Moen, leader of the Libertarian party
I do not expect with a full slate for the Libertarians to do well enough to place ahead of any of the parties that currently hold seats, but winning between 2% and 4% of the vote nationally is very realistic.   Their impact will be enough that Conservatives will start to worry about vote splitting hurting them.   Their best candidates could get as many as 3,000 votes and that is clearly more than the margin of Conservative victory in many seats in 2011.

Managing to run a full slate is not easy.  Since the 1965 election the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives(3)  have always run a full slate.  In the last 15 election the only new parties to run full slates were the Canadian Alliance in  2000 and the Greens in the last four elections.   If the Libertarians were to manage a full slate, they would be only the third new party to do so in 50 years.

The Green party came onto the national scene in 2004 because of the tireless work of the new leader at the time, Jim Harris.   He managed to organize the Greens well enough for the 2004 election that the party did run a full slate.  If this had not happened the Green Party of Canada would not be what it is today.

Not only have few parties managed to run a full slate, there are only five other parties that have even managed to run more than 100 candidates in the last 50 years.   The Libertarians are already at 45 candidates, I have no doubt they will easily break 100 candidates, but can leader Tim Moen get them close to 338?

If Tim Moen does manage to get the party to a full slate they will become a factor in the election.   As much as I am a vote splitting skeptic(4), the Libertarians could be enough of a factor in close races that they could cost the Harper Conservatives a few seats.

It will be very interesting to see how the Libertarian party plays out in this election.
Some Data
Here is the list of fringe parties that managed to run more than 100 candidates but not a full slate in the last 15 elections

  •                         Candidates
  • Party         Election Number Percent. % of vote
  • Green            2000    111   36.9%     0.81%
  • Natural Law      1997    136   45.2%     0.29%
  • Natural Law      1993    231   78.3%     0.63% 
  • National Party   1993    170   57.6%     1.38% 
  • Rhino            1980    121   42.9%     1.01%
  • Marxist-Leninist 1980    177   62.7%     0.13%
  • Marxist-Leninist 1979    144   51.1%     0.12%
  • Marxist-Leninist 1974    104   39.2%     0.17%

Major Parties since 1965 that did not run full slates(5)

  • Party     Election   # of Cand.  MPs
  • Bloc              2011    75      4
  • Bloc              2008    75     49
  • Bloc              2006    75     51
  • Bloc              2004    75     54
  • Bloc              2000    75     38
  • Reform            1997   227     60
  • Bloc              1997    75     44
  • Bloc              1993    75     54
  • Reform            1993   207     52
  • Reform            1988    72      0
  • Social Credit     1980    81      0
  • Social Credit     1979   103      6
  • Social Credit     1974   152     15
  • Social Credit     1972   164     15
  • Rall. créd+Socred 1968   104     14+0
  • Rall. créd+Socred 1965   163      9+5
(1) With 45 candidates nominated, this places the Libertarians ahead of the Greens who have 44 candidates nominated as of today
(2) By full slate I do not mean 100% of the seats, but relatively close, within 10 or so seats of running in all of the seats
(3) By Conservatives I mean the PCs till 2000 and the CPC since 2004 
(4)I think the impact of vote splitting is very much over rated.   In most cases it is not going on and very few seats are won or lost based on it.

(5)  Major meaning they won seats in the election, were holding them or won them in the next one.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What happens if the 2015 election is a referendum on Harper?

There are a lot of people out there that hate Stephen Harper and think he is the worst thing ever for Canada.   They are livid he is prime minister and think that if only everyone that did not vote for him 2011 would just unite he would be defeated.  These people are making the election about Stephen Harper and nothing else.   They want the 2015 election to be a defacto referendum on Harper and that is a huge mistake.

By making the election about Harper the question is very black and white but the choices on the ballot are not black and white - the black is clear but there is no clarity for white.   A referendum on Harper benefits the Conservatives and makes another majority likely.

Here are the questions I have for people pushing an anti-Harper agenda:

  • Who do you think people will vote for instead of the Conservatives?
  • How do you think this strategy will convince anyone else to vote against Harper?
  • Will railing against Harper inspire people to come out and vote?
  • Do you not think that after four elections people know what Harper is about?
  • Who should win the election instead of Harper?
  • Is is so important that Harper be defeated that people not vote for the people or party they believe in?

The more the focus is on yes or no on Harper the more the NDP and Liberals need to fight with each other.   The more those two parties fight with each other, the less time they spend on providing positive solutions to problems.

A strong focus on Harper as being something like the anti-Christ will lead to a lot of the luke warm right wingers come back on board with the Conservatives.  I am already hearing that from people I know that are in the right and had soured on Harper but the shrill attacks on him are making them rethink their position.  I suspect most of them will reluctantly vote Conservative again.  

Get rid of Harper is not a platform.   It is incumbent on the NDP and Liberals to show why they would be the best government.

Monday, February 9, 2015

2015 Federal Election Leaders' Debate - some very early thoughts

Everyone inside the political parties, the media and the punditry is going to wonder what the leaders' debate in the federal election will look like.   It will be a topic of a lot debate because of who will be allowed to be in the debate and who not as well as what is the best sort of debate to have.

One reason we have an major issue this time was that we have six parties represented in parliament.  The Conservatives, the NDP, the Liberals. the Bloc, the Greens and Forces et Démocratie.   All three of the Bloc, Greens and F+D have two MPs.   Realistically the past history of the debates would indicate that all six parties should be in the debate but that takes an over crowded event way over the top.  

With so many parties with a legitimate claim to be in the debate, there is a strong case for debate that is only the three major parties or a debate that is only the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Jean-François Fortin, leader of the new Forces et Démocratie party in Quebec, could be kept out of the debate because they have never elected an MP as F+D.

Elizabeth May leader of the Greens and Mario Beaulieu leader of the Bloc could be excluded because they do not have party status in parliament.

What we could also see is two different four person debates, the Greens are included in the English debate and the Bloc in the French debate.  Following this idea it is possible to see a five person French debate.

Here is my sense of what would ideal, ok and horrible for each party in the debate.

Stephen Harper Conservative - ideally all six parties in the debate, ok if there are five, horrible if it is only the Conservatives and the NDP

The more people in the debate the less chance there is for anyone to stand out and challenge the Prime Minister.   With six leaders, four of them from Quebec, Stephen Harper starts to stand out.

Stephen Harper would really suffer if there was a two person debate with Tom Mulcair because Harper would lose.   A three leader debate would be slightly better because Justin Trudeau would be there to make Harper look better

Tom Mulcair NDP - ideally a mano-a-mano debate with Stephen Harper, ok with the three main parties, horrible if it is all six

Mulcair wants to be Prime Minister, what he needs is for the race to be a two man race about who would be the better leader.  A two person debate would allow him to cream Harper.   If it is a three person debate there is a danger that Mulcair and Trudeau spend a lot of time going after each other and there is no clear alternative to Harper.  Worst is a six person debate because Mulcair will be lost in all the noise.

Justin Trudeau Liberal  ideally only the three major parties. ok if it is the three major parties and the Bloc, horrible if it includes Elizabeth May

Trudeau needs to be seen as an equal with Harper and Mulcair even though his caucus is much, much smaller and he has much less experience.   He gets this in a three leader debate.   OK would be the three major leaders and the Bloc.

Worst for Trudeau would be the inclusion of Elizabeth May because when his voters are people willing to vote Green and if May looks better than him it could be the end of any chance of the Liberals gaining an seats.

Elizabeth May Green - ideally only the three major parties, ok if it is the three major parties and the Greens, horrible if it is all six parties.

If Elizabeth May were excluded from the debate this would be seen as unfair which would increase donations and volunteers for the Greens.   The Greens are strongest in BC and May's exclusion would be seen as an eastern snub of the only leader from BC.   It would push a lot of people in BC to vote for the Greens just to stick to the eastern power elites, a political seam the CCF/NCP and later Reform benefited from.

Next best would be the three main parties and the Greens.  In this debate format Elizabeth May can show she is a better and stronger leader than Justin Trudeau

Mario Beaulieu Bloc - ideally a French language debate that only includes the three major parties and the Bloc, anything else that excludes Forces et Démocratie, bad is anything that includes

Jean-François Fortin Forces et Démocratie - ideally being included, OK if the Bloc is excluded, horrid if the Bloc is included and F+D is excluded.

The Media - ideally thee main party leaders, ok any four leaders, horrible all six leaders

The media wants an entertaining event and this most likely to happen if there are only two or three leaders in the debate.   The more leaders in the debate the lower the tension of the event.   With five leaders the debates were boring, with six leaders the debate will be a snooze fest.

                    CPC    NDP    LPC    Green Bloc F+D  Media
Harper v Mulcair    Horrid Great  Horrid OK    OK   OK   Great
3 major parties     Bad    Good   Good   Great Bad  OK   Good
Eng 3 Major + Green OK     Bad    Horrid Good  OK   OK   OK  
Fr 3 Major + Bloc   OK     Bad    Bad    OK    Good Bad  OK
Fr 5 parties        OK     Bad    Bad    Bad   Bad  Good Bad
5 Parties           Good   Bad    Bad    OK    OK   Bad  Bad
6 Parties           Great  Horrid Horrid Bad   Bad  Good Horrid

Leaders involved in each English language debate
2011 4 -  Michael Ignatieff, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe
2008 5 - Stéphane Dion, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe  and Elizabeth May
2006 4 - Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe
2004 4 - Paul Martin, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe
2000 5 - Jean Chretien, Stockwell Day, Alexa McDonough, Joe Clark, and Gilles Duceppe
1997 5 - Jean Chretien, Preston Manning, Alexa McDonough, Jean Charest, and Gilles Duceppe
1993 5- Jean Chretien, Kim Campbell, Audrey McLaughlin, Preston Manning and Lucien Bouchard
1988 3 - Turner, Mulroney, Ed Broadbent
1984 3 - Turner, Mulroney, Ed Broadbent
1980 -  I can not find the details
1979 3 - Pierre Turdeau, Joe Clark, Ed Broadbent - leader the Creditistes was not invited
1974 -  I can not find the details
1972 -  I can not find the details
1968 4 - Pierre Trudeau, Robert Stanfield Tommy Douglas and Réal Caouette