Sunday, November 30, 2008

Leadership race for the...Conservatives?

Can it get more interesting? Some websites have been popping up:

Conservatives for Prentice, a blog pushing Jim Prentice as leader of the Conservatives. Who started this blog?

Conservatives for Prentice

We are a group of grassroots Conservative Party of Canada members -- the kind of grassroots members on which our party was FOUNDED -- who believe that Jim Prentice should be the next Conservative Leader and Prime Minister of Canada.We will be staying anonymous as we recognize that our position might not be popular right now. But, we think it is still the right thing to do.

...we want to make clear that this site is not in any way endorsed or supported by Jim Prentice or any of his staff.

(First post 11:40am Friday November 28th)

This site is also up: Draft John Baird. From the site:

We are a rapidly growing group of grassroots Conservatives from across the country; who are aggressively campaigning to have John Baird elected the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Since launching the Draft John Baird campaign site on Sunday afternoon...

Email Stephen Harper and Tell Him to Resign

Copyright © 2009 Conservatives for Change

Is it Liberal scheming? Makes for interesting conspiracy theories anyway. If you see any other sites like this pop up, please let me know.

Coalition formed

Details of proposed Liberal-NDP coalition emerge

Details of proposed Liberal-NDP coalition emerge

Last Updated: Sunday, November 30, 2008 | 11:33 PM ETComments121Recommended1349

CBC News

A Liberal-NDP coalition agreement that would replace the minority Conservative government was being fleshed out Sunday night, the CBC has learned.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has shown the outline of an agreement between his party and the New Democratic Party to Liberal leadership candidates Michael Ignatieff, Dominic LeBlanc and Bob Rae, the CBC's Keith Boag reported, citing sources.

"They're discussing this tonight in Toronto," he said from Ottawa.

The NDP would hold 25 per cent of cabinet positions, Boag said, adding that the finance minister and the deputy prime minister would be Liberals.

The Bloc Québécois would not officially be a part of the coalition, but the new government's survival would depend on their support, he said.

The Harper government could prorogue Parliament to block the coalition efforts, but "that'd be a very, very dramatic step given the government has taken the position there'll be a budget early in January," Boag said.

"The real obstacle to this deal going through is still within the Liberal party," Boag said, adding the deal is being negotiated by Dion, who believes he has the right to be prime minister.

But it's unclear whether the party wants him to continue, and the leadership candidates were meeting Sunday evening to discuss the matter, Boag said.

Opposition parties say they have lost confidence in the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper after Thursday's economic update by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty failed to provide a stimulus package for Canadians.

Since then, the Liberals have been in negotiations to form a coalition with the NDP, and the concessions made by the Conservatives over the weekend have done nothing to change the parties' view that Harper must go.

On Sunday, Flaherty said the government would deliver the budget on Jan. 27, about a month before one is normally tabled in the House of Commons.

Shortly after his announcement, Transport Minister John Baird said the minority government won't try to eliminate the right to strike for federal civil servants over the next couple of years, as pledged in last week's economic update.

On Saturday, Baird also announced the government had shelved its contentious plan to eliminate political party subsidies that are based on the number of votes received during elections.

Parliament is due to vote on a Liberal no-confidence motion on Dec. 8. If the Conservatives lose, the opposition parties could be invited by the Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to form a government.

Harper has been in office since February 2006.

So the NDP and Liberals have come to an agreement, according to the CBC:

NDP, Liberals reach deal to topple minority Tory government

Sunday, November 30, 2008 | 9:51 PM ET

"The NDP and Liberals have reached a deal to topple the minority Conservative government and take power themselves in a coalition, CBC News has learned.

A deal has been negotiated between NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion that would see them form a coalition government for two and a half years, the CBC's Keith Boag reported, citing sources.

The NDP would be invited into cabinet and get 25 per cent of seats, Boag said, adding that the party wouldn't get the position of the finance chair or the deputy prime minister's post.

"That's the big step forward tonight," Boag reported.

The Bloc Québécois wouldn't be a part of the coalition, but would have to support it, he said.

"The most difficult question is who'll be the leader," Boag said, adding that Dion, who negotiated the deal, believes he has the right to be prime minister."

Pretty wild. I still can't help but be sceptical, but part of me is really hopeful, if for nothing else than to see what the shit will happen. The most interesting thing in Canadian politics since the '95 referendum.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Godwin's Law and the Globe* Comments section

Godwin's law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"As a Usenet* discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."

Looking for a morning update on the coalition issue, I saw this interesting story on the Globe and Mail's site: ‘Use every tool at your disposal', examining a leaked email instructing Conservative MPs how to discredit the Liberals/NDP/Bloc coalition idea in the media over the next week, using various phrases including "Not a single voter voted for a Liberal-NDP coalition." and "I'm sorry, I don't care how desperate the Liberals are — giving socialists and separatists a veto over every decision in government — that is a recipe for total economic disaster." My favourite, though, is this little gem: "But how more phony could these guys be?" I'm really looking forward to hearing a Conservative MP use that one, word for word.

I posted a couple of comments about how a coalition forming a government is valid and how this email reminds me of the committee handbook incident, in which the Conservatives issued an entire handbook on how to derail and stall the work of parliamentary committees. Reading the other comments, I came across this one:
wayne powers from Saskatoon, writes: Harper reminds me of another countrys leader years ago maybe you can fill in the blanks and guess who was just as power hungry and bloodthirsty H***er

Then I noticed that the comments were closed. It took all of 14 minutes for a Harper-Hitler comparison (from the time of the first comment). The comment has since been removed and the comments are open again. Brutal. I generally hate comments sections on media websites. Partisan bickering of the highest order, horrible pun-nicknames (CONservatives, LIEberals, Taliban Jack), and generally zero discussion. What bothers me most is that people will see a ridiculous comment from the loony left and use it to frame any argument they have. Thanks, wayne powers, for discrediting the rest of us.

* insert media outlet of your choice.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Coalition in Ottawa?

I'm watching CPAC online this morning (a great service). Vic Toews just called England a socialist country. A Liberal back-bencher handed Libby Davies a softball question. Paul Szabo is impressing me with his clarity. The House is nearly empty, I assume because everyone is in meetings.

Interesting times in Ottawa. The Conservatives' economic update hasn't been well-received by anyone that I could see. The left is hopeful that a Liberal-NDP coalition government can be formed if they take down the Conservatives over the economic update. Apparently Ed Broadbent and Jean Chretien are talking. Norman Spector doesn't think it can happen. Some jackass at the Post sees through it all, and thinks it's about politics. Well done.

The Globe's editorial accuses Stephen Harper of putting crass partisanship before the economic crisis after claiming this 40th Parliament would be about cooperation. "Through gratuitous partisanship, they have turned an economic crisis into a political one." Taking away public funding of political parties was smart. It made it easy for the opposition parties to oppose the economic update, and will make it difficult for the opposition parties to change their position on the economic update once the government puts it back in.

A coalition government would be a political junky's dream. All the goings-ons, the intrigue, the constant guesswork about what might happen and who might vote which way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 test

Hi everyone. Just testing out a new application some friends developed.

Cultural theories of risk and the rise of emergence systems |

Mary Douglas, an anthropologist studying traditional African religion observed that different societies feared different sorts of threats, and that these differences correlated with differences in their social structure. Later, Douglas argued that social structures differ along two principal axes: “grid” and “group (see graph).”

Did it work? Seems to have. I'll have to ask the friends what it's all about. Check out for more info. From their site: | Know The Source

With, content capture and attribution as easy as click and embed. tracks the original source of content, whether that’s a quote, a photo, video or a flash object. You respect your sources while you share content with your readers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

History of voter turn-out in Vancouver

This handy-dandy chart* illustrates a simple issue in Vancouver: there is no "normal" voter turn-out. Voter turn-out is down this election, in both absolute and percentage terms, but it's up in some polls, and the overall drop was just under 8000 voters. The numbers aren't great, but they're still higher than by-elections (that bar is set pretty low, I know), and far higher than any election prior to 2005.

Why did the number of registered voters fluctuate so widely before 2005? There were no changes to who was eligible, as near as I can tell. The city adopted the Provincial Voters list, I think, which had far more people on it, but was that really why 30,000 more people voted in 2005? Was it simply a matter of extra voters' cards being mailed out to 120,000 more people?

* Excel doesn't allow for multiple x- or y-axes so I had to cobble this together using the paint function on Appleworks. What a ridiculous restriction.

Civic election - downtown changes

Map 1:
Number of registered voters:
RED - 0-10% loss
GREY - even
PERI - 0-10% gain
ROYAL - 10-20% gain

NAVY - 20-30% gain

Map 2 (with dots) is the mayoral race from 2005; Map 3 is from 2008.

Three things changed downtown from last civic election:

1) A general influx of people (which won't surprise anyone). Registered voters is up from 57,871 to 61,727, for a net gain of 3895.

2) Parts of the West End lost registered voters. While there was only a slight overall loss (around 300) overall, the furthermost western polls (1, 2, 4, 5 and 6) either stayed the same or lost voters. Who's been moving out? Doesn't seem to matter: Vision won these polls by significant margins in 2008 (see vote ratio) and 2005.

3) The NPA lost polls 3, 9, 13 and 15 to Vision; voter turn-out dropped substantially in all of these polls. They held onto poll 17, where voter turn-out dropped enormously. Jim Green did better than Gregor in poll 17, and Peter Ladner managed to pull in as many votes as Sam did in 2005 while voting rates dropped significantly. So did some Vision/Jim Green supporters just not vote in Yaletown? I can't even begin to guess what happened there.

It's interesting to note that voter turn-out dropped in every single poll on the downtown peninsula, and it wasn't high to begin with, resulting in some shockingly low numbers (13.6 - 27%). Poll 15 actually increased by 94 votes but the number of registered voters increased by 1112*, so we see a drop in voter turn-out as a percentage.

* Only two other polls increased so much: poll 17 by 932 and poll 68 (Joyce and Kingsway) by 1008. No other polls were even close.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Civic election vote ratio

This map was really fun to make. It shows the ratio of votes for Gregor to votes for Peter. It's basically a percentage of popular vote, but some of the percentages were so high I thought it would make more sense to present it as a ratio.

I think this map shows why Gregor and Vision won. Peter Ladner dominated a few polls, but even in the strongest NPA areas the ratio was only about 3.5 : 1. Contrast that with some polls in East Van where the ratio of Gregor votes to Peter votes was approaching 7 : 1.

Civic election voter turn-out by poll

So I whipped this up tonight. Not great quality, but it looks okay. A few thoughts on voter turn-out:

1) As could be predicted, southwest and west Vancouver generally had a high turn-out, but so did eastern parts of the city.

2) It will take a bit of doing to figure out how turn-out affected specific polls, but right now there isn't a clear conclusion to be drawn from the numbers. Each candidate won ridings with low and high voter turn-out, including in adjacent polls.

I'm going to put together another few maps tomorrow, one based on voter turn-out by party allegiance.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Election thoughts

I have a monster post planned, basically a day in the life of a poll. It's dull, but I took so many notes I have to do something with them. I analogue-blogged yesterday (note to self: get BlackBerry), and I'll have to go through my notes to find the interesting bits.

But for now, a few simple thoughts about the results from yesterday's big win.

1) Peter Ladner had his ass handed to him, and I mean this in the least partisan way possible.* 48,794 votes. Suzanne Anton got more votes (52,941) than he did. Geoff Meggs, who received the fewest votes of any successful Vision candidate (49,538), got more votes. Ladner would have barely squeaked onto Council with those numbers. Edit: I just checked, and Anton beat Ladner in the 2005 council race as well. Future mayoral candidate?

2) It looks like a fairly clean geographic split (for the mayoral race, anyway; see the Gazeteer for his opinion on density), but I think we'll have to hold off until someone does a full numbers analysis. My sense is that those big red NPA blocks in the southwest aren't that red. For example, in poll 104 (solid NPA territory near UBC south of 16th), Gregor got 395 votes to Peter's 885. Contrast that to poll 40 (Commercial to Clark, 1st to 8th), where Gregor got 674 to Peter's 107.

3) Is anyone else excited about the tie in the mayoral vote in poll 88 (each got 464 votes)? Has that happened before? Edit: In 2002, 88a (now part of 104 in the SW) was a tie.

4) Voter turn-out was low, but not disastrously so. The city's website has it at 30.79%, down from 32.45% in 2005. What will make for interesting reading is where the turn-out was low (and trying to guess how that affected the election). A quick glance shows the highest turn-out (39.1%) in the heart of NPA-land, poll 129: Blanca to Discovery, 8th to 16th. Poll 9 (downtown: Broughton to Bute, Haro NE to the water) had the lowest turn-out (13.6%), one of two downtown polls with less than 15%. Absentee condo owners, anyone?

Thanks for reading, everyone.

* I was hoping to keep this blog relatively non-partisan (tm), but last night and the events leading up to the victory were just too much. I've worked and volunteered for the Vision/Gregor team, and I've enjoyed it all. Great people to work for/with. I volunteered all day yesterday (nothing like a 12-hour volunteer shift), and really felt like a part of the victory was mine. So, apologies to those that might be reading this thinking I'm a party hack. I'll try (when I can) to keep my personal feelings on the side.

The loan - oops, forgot this tidbit.

I thought this would make it into the news, so I didn't mention it in my post about the last mayoral debate, but I haven't seen it yet:

At the last mayoral debate, Peter Ladner said (stating that the meeting was in the public domain already, so why not let the details out too?) that the loan to Millenium was up to a maximum of $100 million, but the first agreed upon amount was $30 million. He then stated that because the developer now knows how much the city is willing to lend, they will most likely ask to borrow it. And because the project has to get finished, the city will have to lend it to them. An interesting point. Not sure he should have stated it in public, though.

Gregor, Vision, COPE and MacKinnon win

So We won. We is capitalized because it was a huge group effort. My close friend asked us the other night how many elections we had truly celebrated (and drinking too much and dancing at Celebrities doesn't count if the election win was marginal). For me: none. That's right, I've never truly and fully celebrated an election win, because I've always voted for the losing party. Partly this is due to timing, partly due to the vagaries of provincial politics.

But this win is ours. Mine. Whatever. It feels great. Now the real work begins, and all that, but hello Dolly, we won. Congratulations to all those that made it in, condolences to those that didn't (on all sides), and I look forward to working with you all in the future. Starting tomorrow, after brunch.

Oh, and election results here and here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stevenson motion - the debate revisited

Okay, one last one.

At the mayoral debate, there were a few times that the two candidates claimed the other was not telling the truth. A few were ambiguous (Gregor's claim that there is a report that says Project Civil City is a failure), but there was one that was just cleared up for me by the same Allen Garr piece:

Gregor stated that Councilor Tim Stevenson moved a motion to make public the details of the Millenium deal. Peter stated unequivocally that there was no such motion. Funny, then, that Mr. Garr wrote this:
And, just so you know, before that in camera meeting Vision Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson moved a motion at council to have all matters to do with the Millennium deal made public. The NPA majority first delayed him then ruled him out of order.

So, which is it? Was there a motion or no? I don't know about you, but right now I believe Allen Garr more than a scrambling Peter Ladner.

I don't envy politicians at all right now. I don't actually think Peter Ladner is a bad guy, but he hasn't done himself any favours over the past week.

One last post before the election - Estelle Lo

I just found this piece by Allen Garr in the Courier from Wednesday. I'm surprised it didn't get more play in these weird times, as he writes that he actually spoke to Estelle Lo, the missing Chief Financial Officer of the city. This is what he wrote:

It appears I was the only journalist who managed to track Lo down on that day. She was in Hong Kong visiting her mother. She said, "I am still with the city." I took that to mean she was still on the payroll. But when I asked her if she had resigned, she refused to comment--which speaks volumes--and would say nothing about the $100 million loan.

That seems clear enough to me (even though it is admittedly a little vague). Garr is confident enough in his assessment to write this:

The CFO who quit is Estelle Lo. It's important to note that this longtime principal steward of the city's treasury was not in the room when the decision was made. She had, by then, handed in her resignation, which amazingly none of the politicians say they knew about until the story broke.

So I will take it as fact that the city's CFO has resigned, that her concerns about the $100 million deal weren't communicated to the Vision councilors at the in camera meeting, and that the NPA have painted themselves into a well-deserved corner.

Garr also makes the point that I've been pushing on friends since the original story broke: that Peter Ladner has broken in camera confidentiality when it suited him by stating (correctly, it would seem) that the council unanimously supported the deal. You can't have it both ways, Peter.

Get out and vote, everyone.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Vancouver election prediction

This election is getting weird (see last post), and most of us just want it to be over. I'm looking forward to E-day, to the energy, the excitement, the 12-hour day and the party afterward.

My election prediction, based solely on impressions:
Councilors: 6 Vision, 3 NPA, 1 COPE
Mayor: Gregor, by...7500 votes.

The last mayoral debate

Last night Gregor Robertson and Peter Ladner squared off in the last mayoral election before Saturday's civic election. With the CBC's Rick Kluff moderating and Stephen Quinn and Frances Bula asking the questions, our two hopefuls took the gloves off and got dirty.

The debate was separated into three broad themes: Housing, crime and transportation. Unfortunately the topics were overshadowed somewhat by the $100-million loan fiasco, and Peter was obviously frustrated by the spotlight on it, but it is something that Vancouverites are talking about. He opened the can in his opening address, so fair game. Is Gregor "playing politics", as Peter claims? Um, he's a politician, that's what they do. Running city hall is politics. Loaning $100-million to a developer while in an in-camera meeting? Pretty sure that's politics.

The candidates dutifully plowed through some generic questions about homelessness, bike lanes and policing. Judging by crowd response (but how can you?), Gregor won this one with some clear statements of intent. Both candidates let the accusations fly: Peter challenging Gregor on his provincial voting record and Gregor attacking Peter's lack of action over the past three years.

Project Civil City (how Orwellian is that?) and the Ambassadors program were contentious issues, ones that clearly separate the two candidates (Peter for, Gregor against, in case you were wondering). More than a few times both men's answers were to lobby higher levels of government, a difficult political position for the candidates, but one that illustrates well the lack of power and influence that civic politicians have.

For someone who is running for the top job in Vancouver, Peter Ladner didn't show so much enthusiasm. The loan fiasco is probably taking a toll, but I got the feeling he thinks the city just needs a competent manager, not a bold leader. Given the events of the past few days, I tend to agree with the need for competence, but surely a little vision and leadership are needed if we're to deal with the raft of issues Vancouver is facing.

The strangest question of the night came right at the end, from the CBC's Stephen Quinn. The question was really just a lengthy rambling outline of just how unlikeable Peter is. It made me uncomfortable, to be honest. Peter made a joke about his wife but then strangely engaged with the question, even admitting that his handlers constantly worked on the issue.

A bizarre end to a normal (even predictable) if lively election event.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nomination campaign donations

The NPA and Vision have just disclosed the amounts that each of their mayoral candidates spent in their nomination battles (thanks, Frances and Irwin).

Peter Ladner raised $158,137 from 193 donors. And according to Frances, "He’s also said a number of times that Gregor’s campaign is reputed to have cost $400,000."

I don't quite understand what was being suggested by Ladner. That Gregor spent too much? That he wasted money convincing thousands of people to choose him as the best candidate to lead Vision in the election? That he had to spend so much to convince people to vote for him? His logic escapes me.

Anyway, Gregor's nomination campaign raised $180,281.50 from 273 donors; nowhere near the $400,000 that Ladner was suggesting.

In the NPA msayoral nomination battle, Ladner beat Sullivan, 1066 votes to 986. Ladner spent $148.35 on each vote. In the Vision mayoral nomination battle, Gregor beat Raymond Louie and Allen De Genova, 3495 to 2244 and 981 respectively. Gregor spent $51.58 on each of his votes. Good value, it seems to me.

Not much of a surprise here: more people donated to Gregor's campaign (273 to 193). The ratio of Ladner to Gregor donors increases as the amount increases: basically, Ladner received fewer but larger donations. The exception is the largest category, $5000+.

Edit: a better graph would have included the amounts that each received from the different donor groupings, but Ladner's disclosure did not include totals from each group.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gregor supports VCC UPass; City on hook for 100m

Did everyone read the furor over the news that the city is on the hook for another 100 million dollars for the Olympic Athletes Village/condo development? A little more important than a transit fine, no? Lost in the kerfuffle was a mini-campaign announcement:

Gregor Robertson and a host of other Vision candidates were at VCC this afternoon to announce their support for VCC's campaign to get a UPass for their students. A fair-ta-middlin' crowd* took in the short announcement, after which Gregor and council candidate Geoff Meggs visited a few classrooms to present their support directly to students. VCC has been trying for years to get a fair-priced UPass for their students, who still pay the full $73/month for a FareCard while UBC students pay only $23.75/month for their Upasses. Fair? Doesn't seem so.

What can a pro-UPass council do to further VCC students' aim? I'm not sure, actually. I don't quite get how the new Translink Board is formed/structured, and what role the Mayor of Vancouver has in the new formation. Time to do some research.

* It's difficult to get students interested in anything, which might seem counterintuitive, but it's true.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Well, there you have it, folks. James is 31. What a night: great friends, beer, an energetic crowd, it had everything but strippers.

Also last night, Barack Obama won the US Presidential election. You thought he was America's first black president, didn't you? Think again. In a speech that moved some friends to tears, Obama graciously accepted our (yes, our) belief that the US can be a better place, that it isn't all NASCAR and Joe Six-Pack, and "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."

Race this, race that. According to an exit poll I saw today, 98% of blacks in Florida voted for Obama. Makes me think back to this great line from Jon Stewart, at his best on March 19th, 2008, after Obama's great speech on race in America: “And so, at 11 o’clock AM on a Tuesday, a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults.” The clip is lost in interwebspace, or I would link to it. Thanks, Comedy Central.