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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[LINK] Two notes on changing party allegiances in Québec

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The other day, Facebook’s Mike kindly linked to Chantal Hébert’s Toronto Star article, “Bloc Québécois MPs unlikely to stick around for next election”. Continuing to lose support in Québec’s regions, among non-Francophone communities, and among unions, the Bloc may plausibly disappear come the next election.

Of the four MPs who survived the NDP wave three years ago, two have since turned their backs on the Bloc. A fifth who crossed over from the NDP after the election is not expected to run again.

Ahuntsic MP Maria Mourani was shown the door by then-leader Daniel Paillé in the heat of the debate over the Parti Québécois’ proposed secularism charter last fall. She has since renounced sovereignty.

Jean-François Fortin who represents the eastern Quebec riding of Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia slammed the door on his way out last week. In a statement that was more akin to a manifesto than to a resignation letter, Fortin had nothing but harsh words for new leader Mario Beaulieu whose approach to sovereignty the MP described as folkloric.

Claude Patry was elected in Jonquière—Alma on Jack Layton’s ticket three years ago only to decide he did not belong in a federalist caucus a year later. But now he is chaffing under Beaulieu’s leadership and the new leader scrambled on Monday to talk him out of following Fortin out the door. Under any scenario, few expect this MP to seek re-election next year.

Of the remaining MPs, one — Richmond—Arthabaska’s André Bellavance — has yet to say a supportive word about his new leader since he narrowly lost the leadership to Beaulieu in June.

That leaves Richelieu MP Louis Plamondon who will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his first election (as a Tory) on Sept. 4. At 71, he is both the dean of the House of Commons and the most (only?) likely Bloc incumbent to stick around for another election. If he does he may get to turn off the lights on the party that he helped create almost twenty-five years ago.

CBC’s Michelle Gagnon, meanwhile, wonders in “http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/never-mind-the-west-can-justin-trudeau-crack-fortress-quebec-1.2741145?cmp=rss”>”Never mind the West, can Justin Trudeau crack Fortress Quebec?” exactly that question. Will the Liberals progress or will the NDP consolidate its gains? Much comes down to how the Trudeau name is perceived.

Belonging, of course, is key to politics in Quebec. The nationalism that divides party support provincially often cuts across partisan lines in the federal arena.

Being a native son, as Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney were, or a reinstated one as le bon Jack Layton became, can often be a deciding factor in winning Quebec and forming a national government.

True, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have won successive governments without much backing from Quebec. But Conservative MP Denis Lebel’s current 12-day charm offensive to court Quebec voters suggests that even they know the province is not to be discounted.

By all measures, Trudeau is undeniably from here, from Montreal in particular, where he spent his teen and university years after his father retired from politics.

His French is flawless, and his knowledge of the province’s set-piece political battles almost intimate.

More, his stance on abortion, legalizing marijuana, and LGBTQ issues feel homegrown, in line with Quebecers’ more progressive instincts.

But he is also the son of a man considered by many here to have betrayed his own. First, by invoking the War Measures Act during the 1970 October Crisis, and then by outmaneuvering Quebec and leaving it on the sidelines during the 1982 constitutional negotiations.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 21, 2014 at 1:02 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • Centauri Dreamns comments on the way SETI is akin to casino gambling.
  • Crasstalk’s commentary on a ridiculous New York Post article arguing that catcalling is a good thing should be read.
  • D-Brief notes evidence suggesting that the short height of Africa’s Pygmies evolved on multiple occasions.
  • Eastern Approaches interviews Ukrainian rebels on the Russian side of the porous Russian-Ukrainian border.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh considers the chances of the Euro crisis reigniting over Italian and southern European debt.
  • Language Hat links to an article tracing efforts to preserve the Californian language of Wukchumni via its last speaker.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes a ridiculously terrible American journalist (morally and otherwise).
  • Marginal Revolution notes the continuing economic decline of print journalism.
  • Personal Reflection’s Jim Belshaw complains about the Australian government in terms akin to ones I’ve heard of in Canada.
  • Torontoist quotes Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow’s complaint that the fare for the proposed express train to Pearson is not very competitive with taxis.
  • Towleroad points to a recent pogrom against queer people in Uganda, killing seven.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is appalled by ill-thought media-driven criticism of British public healthcare.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • Crooked Timber’s Daniel Davies writes about the end of his career as a financial analyst.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper discussing the brown dwarfs of 25 Orionis.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper suggesting that Uranus’ moon system is still evolving, with the moon Cupid being doomed in a relatively short timescale. It also wonders if North Korea is exporting rare earths through China.
  • Far Outliers notes the Ainu legacy in placenames in Japanese-settled Hokkaido.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig examines the complexities surrounding language and dialect and nationality in the Serbo-Croatian speech community in the former Yugoslavia.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes the terribly high death rate among Europeans in colonial Indonesia, and how drink was used to put things off.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog examines the prevalence of sex-selective abortion in Armenia.
  • Torontoist notes Rob Ford’s many lies and/or incomprehensions about Toronto’s fiscal realities.
  • Towleroad suggests that one way to regularize HIV testing would be to integrate it with dentistry appointments.
  • Window on Eurasia notes a water dispute on the Russian-Azerbaijan border and argues that the election of a pro-Russian cleric to the head of the Ukrainian section of the Russian Orthodox Church is dooming that church to decline.

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s Civic Election”

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Livejournaler jsburbidge wrote an interesting post on the prospects of the major candidates in Toronto’s mayoral election later this year. John Tory might actually get elected.

First, even with the latest Forum poll, it’s not really clear whether John Tory has a decided lead or not. Forum adjusts its polls for likely voters, and the current rolling average calculations at ThreeHundredEight.com show Chow’s “recent high” overlapping with Tory’s “recent low” (31% as opposed to 28%). In other words, they’re still in competition within the margin of error.

Still, Tory’s weighted average is 33.9% and Chow’s is 29.1%. I think it’s fair to say that if trends continue as they have been Chow will be in trouble.

You can see from a breakdown in a recent poll as to why Chow has a bit of a dilemma. She has strong support (naturally) from the NDP, but also the largest block of Liberal support. If her aim is to increase her overall share of the vote, she can do one of two things — try to peel away more Liberal – identifiers (or equivalent voters who don’t identify as Liberals but whose views are generally more middle-of-the-road), or come out swinging strongly in a bid for popular support among more disaffected voters.

In a “normal” election, the latter might make sense: there are more voters who will identify with her immigrant experience and early background than with Tory’s background as a scion of Tory, Tory, Deslauriers and Binnington (as it was when I was in Law School, now Torys LLP). Unfortunately, many of these potential voters are in the disaffected category on which Rob Ford has an even stronger lock — as a number of analyses have pointed out, Ford’s populist base isn’t necessarily all conservative, and certainly his strength among the young and in the black community points to a strength based in pure populism. (Serious conservatives of any sort have probably given up on Ford because even if he were to win, the last several years have shown that he can’t work well enough with others to make things happen; better to back a less radical conservative withe better coalition-building skills.) So Chow’s growth prospects depend on not scaring off centrist voters.

That’s why her campaign is so bland. She’s safe pointing out her own background, but she’s presenting as someone pushing minor adjustments to the system rather than major overhauls. Soknacki, who is a self-declared small-c conservative, has more radical positions than she does.

In contrast the same breakdown shows why Tory’s campaign is so much closer to the fiscal position of the city government over the past four years than his background in the CivicAction Alliance might lead one to expect: if Chow basically occupies the left and centre left of the spectrum, he has little to gain from trying to compete with her there, given his background and history. Campaigning to the right is his obvious strategy.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 19, 2014 at 2:43 am

[LINK] “Memo to the PM: Treat Putin like Ignatieff”

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Paul Wells of MacLean’s writes about Russia, suggesting a potentially productive new approach for dealing with Putin. Why not mockery?

Why would Western rhetoric on Putin and Ukraine have any other result? He gets his political strength from the perception that he is willing to stand up to a monolithic, hidebound, malevolent West. Since he started moving against eastern Ukraine, Western leaders have, obligingly, played to type. Putin’s is a classic outsider stance, fuelled by resentment and a sense of historic betrayal: If all the ‘A’ students and the swells in pinstripes hate what he’s doing, he must be doing something right.

If any Western leader should be able to understand this, it’s Stephen Harper. The two men have this much in common, at least. Harper rose to power on a lower-octane variant of Putin’s populist rocket fuel, as did any number of populist outsiders before him—Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, even Jean Chrétien. Harper knows what it’s like to challenge an established order run by graduates of the proper schools, with their snooty attitudes and their complacent assumptions. It’s a really good day for Harper, and for Conservative fundraising, when the Canadian Bar Association, the CBC’s “At Issue” panel, and more than 15 per cent of the University of Toronto’s faculty directory can be prodded to declare that this time, he’s gone too far. So why does he insist on sounding like them?

When the leaders of the G7, with one voice, “call upon Russia to use its influence with the separatist groups and ensure effective border control,” they are asking him to accomplish what none of them can. It’s inherently empowering rhetoric, and its message is: Putin is strong. Putin is in control. Putin provides an effective challenge to the established order, and all anyone can do is beg Putin for favours.

There’s another message, and it has the advantage of being more accurate. It’s that Putin is so weak that he has, alone among Russian leaders in over a century, already lost effective control over almost all of Ukraine. His consolation prize is the shaky allegiance of a bunch of vodka-swilling thugs who pick fights on the steps of backwater town halls and, on a really good day, manage to shoot down a passenger jet by mistake. No wonder his wife, Lyudmila, left him a year ago. He’s a loser.

There’s an arena where Harper and his advisers are masters in the art of wrapping derision around a kernel of truth. That’s domestic politics. In 2006, Harper did away with Paul Martin by announcing five simple priorities for government action, making Martin look scattershot and impulsive. In 2008, the Conservative ad machine questioned Stéphane Dion’s competence as a leader; in 2011, they questioned Michael Ignatieff’s loyalty to Canada, a country they said he was “just visiting.”

This is common practice in domestic political campaigning. In his autobiography, Tony Blair explains how he defeated a bunch of British Conservative leaders. “I defined [John] Major as weak; [William] Hague as better at jokes than judgment; [Michael] Howard as an opportunist . . . Expressed like that, these attacks seem flat, rather mundane almost, and not exactly inspiring—but that’s their appeal. Any one of those charges, if it comes to be believed, is actually fatal. Yes, it’s not like calling your opponent a liar, or a fraud, or a villain or a hypocrite, but the middle-ground floating voters kind of shrug their shoulders at those claims. They don’t chime. They’re too over the top, too heavy, and they represent an insult, not an argument. Whereas the lesser charge, because it’s more accurate and precisely because it’s more low-key, can stick. And if it does, that’s that. Because in each case, it means [he’s] not a good leader. So game over.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 18, 2014 at 7:41 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • Cody Delistraty links to an article of his at The Atlantic examining the connection between beauty and happiness.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh looks at Abenomics in Japan and notes that Japan’s economic problems run much too deep for simple fiscal and interest-rate changes to change.
  • On Tumblr, I Give In shares pictures of lady slipper flowers growing in abundance at CFB Gatetown.
  • Joe. My God., Lawyers, Guns and Money, and Towleroad all share the news that Texas governor Rick Perry was indicted on multiple felony charges.
  • Language Hat shares a paper suggesting that most languages above a certain size (35 thousand speakers) are not declining).
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig reposts her study of the correlation between ethnicity and political parties in Israel.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money traces the ongoing deterioration in Russian-Ukrainian relations to the point of open war.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at the economy of Switzerland and wonders if deflation is a problem for the European economy.
  • Spacing Toronto shares a photo of the view over the Bathurst bridge.
  • Towleroad notes the struggles of gay Palestinians in Israel.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes problems with regulating certain Jewish rites on sanitary grounds.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait suggests that the ESA’s Rosetta probe may have found evidence for a calving event in its target comet.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Jupiter’s extraordinarily volcanic moon of Io.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird notes a report that Russia plans on opening a new air force base in Belarus.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel describes how Hakodate, the first city of Japan’s Hokkaido island, hosted multiple consulates.
  • Joe. My. God. and Towleroad note how parishoners at a Roman Catholic church in Illinois are rallying behind their church’s music director, fired for announcing his impending marriage.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig describes, with maps, the issues of Christians in the Middle East.
  • Language Log explores the complexities of newly popular Sanskrit language programs in education.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money explores the survival of the old South and Confederate ideals in the modern Tea Party (1, 2).
  • Marginal Revolution started a discussion as to what the European Central Bank should do.
  • The Planetary Society Blog hosts a post from Jason Davis describing the innovative online interface for data from the crowd-controlled ISEE-3 probe.
  • The Russian Demographics blog notes the confused population policy of Belarus.
  • Spacing Toronto notes how Logan Avenue in the east end has become an unofficial slow street.
  • Torontoist discusses doorings suffered by cyclists.
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