Sunday, December 28, 2008

Samuel Huntington, RIP

More to come later. For now:

Globe and Mail article and comments section.

Edit: I can't be bothered. He was divisive, a borderline bigot, and far too influential.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Michael Ignatieff and Iraq, in his own words

The Liberal Quandary Over Iraq - NYT, December 8, 2002:
''This one's really difficult,'' said Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian-born writer and thinker who has written a biography of the liberal philosopher Isaiah Berlin along with numerous books and articles on human rights. No one in recent years has supported humanitarian intervention more vocally than Ignatieff, but he says he believes that Iraq represents something different. ''I am having real trouble with this because it's not clear to me that containment has failed,'' Ignatieff told me.

The American Burden; The Empire - NYT, January, 2003
(This is the big one, folks.):
The impending operation in Iraq is thus a defining moment in America's long debate with itself about whether its overseas role as an empire threatens or strengthens its existence as a republic. The American electorate, while still supporting the president, wonders whether his proclamation of a war without end against terrorists and tyrants may only increase its vulnerability while endangering its liberties and its economic health at home. A nation that rarely counts the cost of what it really values now must ask what the ''liberation'' of Iraq is worth...

Iraq may claim to have ceased manufacturing these weapons after 1991, but these claims remain unconvincing, because inspectors found evidence of activity after that date. So what to do? Efforts to embargo and sanction the regime have hurt only the Iraqi people. What is left? An inspections program, even a permanent one, might slow the dictator's weapons programs down, but inspections are easily evaded. That leaves us, but only as a reluctant last resort, with regime change.

I Am Iraq - NYT, March 23, 2003
This time, over Iraq, I don't like the company I am keeping, but I think they're right on the issue. I much prefer the company on the other side, but I believe they're mistaken.

Why Are We In Iraq? - NYT, September 7, 2003:
Now the line seems to be that the war wasn't much of an act of pre-emption at all, but rather a crusade to get rid of an odious regime. But this then makes it a war of choice -- and the Bush administration came to power vowing not to fight those. At the moment, the United States is fighting wars in two countries with no clear policy of intervention, no clear end in sight and no clear understanding among Americans of what their nation has gotten itself into.

The Year of Living Dangerously - NYT, March 14, 2004:
A year ago, I was a reluctant yet convinced supporter of the war in Iraq. A year later, the weapons of mass destruction haven't turned up, Iraqis are being blown up on their way to the mosque, democracy is postponed till next year and my friends are all asking me if I have second thoughts. Who wouldn't have?

Democratic Providentialism - NYT, December 12, 2004:
Unless Iraq gets semilegitimate institutions next year, and a constitution that allocates resources and powers to each of Iraq's constituent peoples, the U.S. invasion will have traded a dangerous dictatorship for a failed state and terrorist enclave.

The Uncommitted - NYT, January 30, 2005:
Just as depressing as the violence in Iraq is the indifference to it abroad. Americans and Europeans who have never lifted a finger to defend their own right to vote seem not to care that Iraqis are dying for the right to choose their own leaders. Why do so few people feel even a tremor of indignation when they see poll workers gunned down in a Baghdad street? Why isn't there a trickle of applause in the press for the more than 6,000 Iraqis actually standing for political office at the risk of their lives? Have we all become so disenchanted that we need Iraqis to remind us what a free election can actually be worth?

Who Are Americans to Think That Freedom Is Theirs to Spread? - NYT, June 26, 2005:
If democracy plants itself in Iraq and spreads throughout the Middle East, Bush will be remembered as a plain-speaking visionary. If Iraq fails, it will be his Vietnam, and nothing else will matter much about his time in office.

Getting Iraq Wrong - NYT, August 5, 2007:
I made some of these mistakes and then a few of my own. The lesson I draw for the future is to be less influenced by the passions of people I admire — Iraqi exiles, for example — and to be less swayed by my emotions. I went to northern Iraq in 1992. I saw what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds. From that moment forward, I believed he had to go. My convictions had all the authority of personal experience, but for that very reason, I let emotion carry me past the hard questions, like: Can Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites hold together in peace what Saddam Hussein held together by terror? I should have known that emotions in politics, as in life, tend to be self-justifying and in matters of ultimate political judgment, nothing, not even your own feelings, should be held immune from the burden of justification through cross-examination and argument.

Michael Ignatieff

Is it time to weigh in on Michael Ignatieff, torturer of Ukrainian wars in Iraq? I think so. Will he be our next Prime Minister? Seems likely. After more than a hundred years of every Liberal leader becoming PM, it's unlikely that there would be two in a row to miss out.

I have an odd relationship with Michael Ignatieff. As an undergrad I read some of his work, and was quite impressed. If you have any questions about what he thinks Canada can be, please read The Rights Revolution, his Massey Lecture from 2000, the year he took the post of Director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights.

I remember reading his piece in the New York Times advocating for the American invasion in Iraq and thinking something like: "Doesn't he see what we all can see, that this is a sham?" It had little to do with American values, and there were never going to beWMD found. For him it was about saving the Kurds and the Iraqi people, a position I can understand. I'm a big fan of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, but in practical terms it's a big ol' mess. Read: Iraq.

And then he came back to Canada. In his nomination and election campaign he faced criticism about his views on nations and nationalism (patently ridiculous to anyone who actually read his books), his support for the Iraq war and his misinterpreted position on the use of torture in a democracy.

Just so it's all on the table: I was hoping he would win the Liberal leadership race in 2006. We all know how Stephane Dion turned out, and my friends and I warned everyone. Of course he wasn't experienced enough. Of course he had baggage. And the wait probably did him some good: he has proven to be a competent parliamentarian in the interregnum.

And now he's the leader and presumptive Prime Minister of Canada. (I say this even though he has clearly stated that he isn't presuming to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.) Care for some recent media pieces about the man who would be king?

What he would do if he were PM, as told to Macleans in 2006.
A great piece by Terry Glavin at the Georgia Straight, 2006.
George Strombo interviews him on the Hour: Part 1. Part 2.
A blog post at Macleans that has many links to recent interviews and commentary.
at the Star weighs in again. (More later.)

If you want real background on the man, read his books. Read The Lesser Evil if you want to know his position on torture, don't read a few quoted lines on the interweb and presume to understand an entire book.

Edit: Or try a search for Ignatieff at the NYT. Their catalog from 1851 is available online, and there are 2340 results, many referring to Russian Counts and Generals and dating from the 19th century.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Homeless woman burns to death trying to keep warm

This is tragic. Sick-to-my-stomach tragic. Homeless Vancouver woman burns to death

Around 4:30 a.m. witnesses saw what appeared to be a burning shopping cart in downtown Vancouver, which turned out to have a person inside...

Police believe the 47-year-old woman burned to death by a fire she lit to keep warm as temperatures in Vancouver overnight fell to -9 C, with a wind chill that made it feel much colder.

In the preceding days, shelters were filled beyond capacity as homeless advocates, police and emergency workers tried to find the city's homeless shelter from the cold.

“Through the course of the evening our patrol officers had checked her...on two occasions,” said Vancouver police Constable Jana McGuinness.

“They had offered her shelter and she had declined and we are here this morning with this very sad tragedy.”

Homeless woman's body found burning in shopping cart in Vancouver

Graves, who has been an advocate for the homeless for over two decades, speculated the woman might have chosen to remain on the streets during the cold snap because many shelters do not allow street people to bring their shopping carts inside for the night.

A new shelter that will allow shopping carts is scheduled to open within days, said Graves.

The timing of this is horrible and sad. However, this problem is more than about how many shelter beds we open up. I applaud Gregor and the council's quick action on this, and without it there could have been more deaths. However, this is a bigger issue than which church we can persuade to stay open, or how many staff and volunteers we can find in the next few days.

Homelessness in Metro Vancouver has risen drastically since 2002. The problem is complex, the reasons multitudinous, you can't help people that don't want help, blah blah. Some reasons are simple: More stringent welfare regulations which kicked thousands off welfare and the closing of spaces like Riverview, which drove hundreds of patients on to the streets. I'm going to do some research into this, and into the numbers, but it's not always as complex as we think.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Harper's hypocrisy II - aka move on dot Brenton

Should we move on dot org and simply wait until January before renewing our critique of the Harper government? Maybe. I couldn't help it though: I just saw this over at blogging a dead horse:

"Past Steve is coming back to kill future Steve!!"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2009 Budget consultations - online!

Have you ever wanted to tell Jim Flaherty how to do his job? You can, with Libby's Zoodles (does anyone else remember that ad?). The Finance Ministry has launched an online service encouraging everyday Canadians to submit their ideas for how the federal government should focus their efforts in saving our economy in the new year.

Consulting with Canadians

The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, invites all Canadians to share their views and priorities as the Government prepares Budget 2009.“The Government is open to innovative new ideas that would help shape the plan for economic recovery in the 2009 budget,” said Minister Flaherty.The following ideas have been proposed as ways of providing stimulus in Budget 2009. Please rank them according to the priority they should have in the Government’s plan. If you’ve got another idea, rank that one as well. You will have the opportunity to spell out your ideas on the next screen.

  • Expedite Infrastructure Spending

  • Invest in Housing

  • Build strong sustainable labour markets and training incentives

  • Support traditional and emerging industrial sectors

  • Improve Access to Credit

  • Your Idea: If you believe Budget 2009 should have a different stimulus priority, assign a ranking to this box. You will be able to explain this priority on the next screen.

You are then asked to give short (50 words max.) comments on your choices, then finally fill out a short demographic survey. And apparently you can do it as many times as you want from the same computer. So get clicking, everyone.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vancouver City Council's first meeting, Dec. 8th.

The short version: It was boring and lasted 25 minutes. You can watch the action here.

Slightly longer version:

Democracy in action, folks. Welcome to the boring side of civic politics. The exciting bits happen in the media, I gather. For instance: Frances Bula reports yesterday about the projects that city staff will be undertaking in the near future, and some of it is pretty exciting stuff (if you're a civic politics nerd): establishing the Homeless Emergency Action Team (HEAT), moving the sustainability office into the main corporate management office, and creating a list of all the landlords who have had orders from the city to comply with city maintenance standards, including the outcomes of those complaints. Scintillating stuff there.

In the council meeting nothing really happened. (See the meeting agenda and minutes.) There was motion after motion adopting recommendations for appointments to committee and regional bodies. That's it. There was some joking about Raymond Louie's penchant for seconding, and Gregor jokingly hoped that all meetings would be so easy.

I didn't think it would be a razzle-dazzle affair, but I did expect a bit more... I don't know what. I also expected that more people would be there watching. Maybe they all knew it would be boring.

Our new Vancouver City Council: Starting from the bottom, going clockwise:
Geoff Meggs, Kerry Jang, George Chow, David Cadman (away), Gregor Robertson, Tim Stevenson, Heather Deal, Suzanne Anton, Andrea Reimer, Ellen Woodsworth.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, complete with the chains of office.

A sceptre for bonking councillors if they step out of line.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Institutionalizing of a Chinese Whistleblower*

I just saw this in the New York Times: Whistle-Blowers in Chinese City Sent to Mental Hospital. Not so shocking; almost expected, even. What is odd is that it was even published. The story originated in a state-owned Chinese regional newspaper. Then it was picked up by the major state-owned media: People's Daily and Xinhua, which is astounding. People's Daily offers these headlines for today (not exactly critical stuff):

China registers historic progress in human rights
Chinese maritime patrol near Diaoyu Islands irreproachable
Economic stimulus package to improve people's livelihood

I did some research a few years ago that had me reading Chinese newspapers (translated). I was looking for articles about energy and East Asian relations, but you can glean quite a bit just from the tone and style of news stories. This story would never have been published five years ago.

And maybe not much has changed. The story has been picked up by media outlets from Tasmania to Croatia, but one day after it was published I couldn't find the story on any Chinese site, though I did find this unrelated story: Whistle-blowers given protection. A quick search for Xintai (the name of the city and mental hospital) on the English version of Xinhua returned this lovely picture:

My Mandarin is a little rusty, but I'm going to guess it reads "Sorry, your search has returned no results, but look at these cute cats... so cute".

* with apologies to John Cassavetes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

"During I arrived..."

Watching the Daily Show today I had the pleasure of seeing clips from this interview of George W. Bush by Charlie Gibson of ABC. When asked about his part in the Wall Street financial meltdown, President Bush had this to say:

W: You know, I been the President during this period of time, but I think when the history of this period is written people will realize that a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over, y'know, uh, a decade or so before I arrived at President, during I arrived at President.*

Are you kidding me? "...during I arrived at President."? They're giving this man a library? He's thinking of going on the lecture circuit?

* may be "in President", not "at President".

Friday, December 5, 2008

Au revoir, mon cowboy?

Has Stephen Harper given up on Quebec? Has Quebec said au revoir to the cowboy from Calgary? My friend Rob at the Tyee wrote a good piece about just that possibility (snipped below). Thanks, Stephen Harper, for fomenting separatist feeling in Quebec, just when it seemed to be slowly fading.... and good luck in the next federal election. His Quebec MPs were just thrown under the bus (apologies for being trite, but apparently it's the political phrase of the year).

Has Harper Hurt National Unity? :: News ::

After years of courting Quebec voters in the hopes of winning that elusive parliamentary majority, Stephen Harper made it clear this week he was done playing nice with la belle province.
If there needs to be a time out, Milner says, the prime minister and his baffling attacks on "the separatists" bear much of the blame.
In any case, the events of the last few days suggest Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, a Quebec native whose financial statement kicked off the political/constitutional/national unity chain of events, may have overstated things when he told a reporter earlier this year "the whole Quebec secession issue is gone."
"Indirectly you're saying that half the French Canadians in Quebec are devil-worshippers. It's not something that goes over well," he said, adding that the prime minister's "incendiary" comments suggest he may have written Quebec off.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Web diversion

Sick of the Parliamentary crisis? Take a break and have a dorky chuckle at the webcomics at xkcd. Like this one:

or this one:

How is this all playing in Quebec? Harper plays patriot game

...risks angering Quebec voters, many of whom have voted for the Bloc Québécois in the past and may resent the suggestion that BQ support is illegitimate...

He did not, however, use the word “separatist” in the French version of his speech, preferring the less-inflammatory term, “souverainistes.”

In Quebec, Premier Jean Charest said after hearing Mr. Harper's televised address that Quebec doesn't need anti-sovereigntist rhetoric from the federal government while it copes with the global economic crisis.

Quebecers say ‘Good riddance!’ to Harper: poll | Jerad Gallinger

The poll, conducted by CROP for La Presse, found that 76 percent of respondants would favour a coalition should the Conservative government be defeated. 62 percent thought that the Bloc Québécois should be a part of the coalition and have seats at the cabinet table, while 70 percent felt that the Bloc should support the new government even if they are not an official part of the coalition.

Adam M On The Front Page:

Once again, nothing is stoking the flames of the hitherto recently sleeping separatist movement as Stephen Harper's constant insults to Quebec's elected MP's. This is an insult and citizens of Quebec are taking it as such.

The separatist sentiment that this insanity is bringing out in people in Quebec risks reviving the PQ's polls in the ongoing Quebec election. Stephen Harper is giving something for the Quebecois to be indignant about: suggesting that their members are illegitimate and that their vote don't count.

Federal polling VI - coalition numbers

CTV released polling numbers on the coalition.

Do Canadians think the government should remain in power?

"Canadians are deeply divided on whether the Conservatives deserve to stay in power, with 35 per cent saying the party should continue to govern and 40 per cent wanting change..."

Hmmmm....35% is about what the Conservatives got in the last election, which is within the poll's margin of error. So, no more divided than before this "crisis".*

If the coalition falls, Canadians would want:
- Opposition coalition: 37 per cent
- Holding a federal election: 32 per cent
- No sure: 24 per cent
- Allowing the opposition to run by accord: 7 per cent

"A full 75 per cent thought the government should implement a stimulus package as soon as possible, while 17 per cent disagreed."

* Yes, I realize that 25% of respondents weren't sure, and some of those will be more likely to support the current government while others will be more likely to support a new coalition government. For the record, I'm in the "don't think the coalition is a great idea but I can't imagine Harper continuing as PM after he steered his party into this debacle so something has to change and I voted for a coalition party so I may as well support their bid for forming a not-batshit-crazy government" group.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Now they're getting desperate

Have you read about the flag issue today? Holy desperate, Batman. Stephen Harper had this to say in the House today: - UPDATED: On second thought, I think I prefer him wrapping himself in the flag …

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, as part of the culmination of the machinations of the leader of the NDP, we had these three parties together forming this agreement, signing a document, and they would not even have the Canadian flag behind them. They had to be photographed without it.

It turns out to be a complete falsehood. Either it was a deliberate lie or a horrible oversight, given the prominence of the flags in the background at the announcement of the accord yesterday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Harper's hypocrisy

Now, I try to remain relatively non-partisan on here, but at times partisan criticism is unavoidable. And I don't mean to suggest with this post that the other parties and leaders are above hypocrisy, forgetting history or going back on their word. But this is getting to be a bit much. Here are three blatant cases of hypocrisy from Stephen Harper and the Conservatives:

1) Making it law that elections would happen on fixed dates, and stating that they shouldn't be called for purely political reasons. This was standard Chretien procedure that the Conservatives decried and then made illegal. "Fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar simply for partisan political advantage," our PM said. Then he went ahead and did it anyway.

2) Decrying the proposed Liberal-NDP-(Bloc) coalition as undemocratic, decrying the two parties for jumping in bed with the "separatists", and crying foul because the NDP and Bloc discussed the possibility of a coalition before the current crisis. Um, Sept. 9th, 2004, anyone? A letter was sent to then G-G Adrienne Clarkson asking her to consider dissolving Parliament (Martin's minority government was about to take power) before it had even started, and that the opposition parties had been "in close consultation"; this letter was signed by Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and...wait for it....Stephen Harper! And Mr. Harper, it's part of our democratic system.

3) Mocking the NDP's association with the Liberals. From today in the House: “Why should anybody have confidence in the leader of a party who would agree to fold his own party into another party?” Can he be serious? Is he just mocking Peter McKay outright? Doesn't he remember being intimately involved in the formation of his own party?

Does this man have no sense of history? Or does he think we just don't remember any of it? Bizarre.

Parliament to be prorogued?

From a Conservative press conference today with Jim Prentice and James Moore: - Not with a bang but a press conference

5:58:39PM Question from CanWest: Is proroguing “on the table”? The government will consider “all options” - but Keith Boag wonders what other options there *are*, exactly.

Does the government have any precedent for *its* position, wonders another reporter. The precedence is “common sense”, according to Prentice. Which isn’t actually precedence.

And this from a completely unreliable source:

A supposed Conservative staffer in Ottawa just wrote to my friend (a journalist) that they just concluded a meeting where they (some MPs and staff) were informed that Parliament would in fact be prorogued this week.

I say supposed because my friend doesn't know who it is he is emailing with. He was trying to find out what the story was with the Draft John Baird website, and in his email exchange with the anonymous contact person they mentioned the above tidbit.

So, totally unsubstantiated and most likely a piece of propaganda from an opposition party. Still, pretty fun.

Our next PM?

John Ivison: Michael Ignatieff would be PM in a Liberal-led coalition - Full Comment

Michael Ignatieff will become Prime Minister in a Liberal-led coalition government if the opposition parties succeed in bringing down the Conservatives in a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons next week and if the Governor-General deems it to be a viable alternative, sources said late last night.

It is understood that the plan will be presented to the Liberal caucus Monday at 1 p.m.

It will be interesting to see if this (the presentation to caucus) comes to pass, and whether it will get leaked to the media.

Edit: Guess Ivison was a bit off on this one. The CBC is reporting that Dion will be lead the coalition. So he might not go down in Canadian political history as the only Liberal leader to not be Prime Minister.

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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carbon tax Re-revisited - the $47 EP

Excuse the obscure Metallica reference. And how I forced the subject into the structure of the reference imperfectly (What does EP have to do with the tax?).

Think the BC Liberals' carbon tax is a great environmental plan that is fair and aimed at reducing carbon consumption? Apparently it's also disproportionally aimed at lower-income Canadians, who will end up paying more as the scheme progresses: $47 more than they'll get back on their taxes by the third year of the program. Meanwhile "those in the top income group will end up an average of $311 better off in year three."

As my friend just wrote to me: "Could it be that: Environmental policy - class analysis = poor environmental policy?" Indeed.

And this has just started to bother me: How does a consumptive tax that is refunded on your taxes curb consumption? I thought the point was to increase the cost so that people would use less, but if we all know we're getting the money back on our taxes, why will we consume less?

There is a place for prohibitive consumptive taxes, or consumptive taxes that are used to fix the problems created by the consumption. This one, however, just doesn't make sense.

Monday, October 27, 2008

YVR - a tale of two arrivals

On Friday I went to YVR (Vancouver's Int'l Airport) to pick up a friend returning from abroad. I had picked up the same friend eight months previous at the same place. The arrivals area has changed a bit since last time.

The first picture is from the arrival in February. I walked in and was struck with a sense of deja vu (not that odd, as I had been there before). I realized that it wasn't deja vu but simply familiarity from having seen it recently. Where? The Robert Dziekanski* taser death video. I was standing right where the video had been shot. Eerie, let me tell you.

This time around the room has changed significantly. There is no longer a plate-glass wall between the waiting area and the inner arrival area. Instead there is a large information centre open to both rooms in the arrivals area. Friendly staff eagerly asked if they could help me. Above the info booth there are several tv screens, one of which shows the second image on the right: A welcome sign in English, French and Chinese and a rotating selection of greetings from other countries, one of them Polish. Much more friendly than a taser.

* For those that don't know, Robert Dziekanski was a Polish immigrant that died after being tasered by RCMP who were trying to subdue him after YVR security called for assistance to deal with the distraught (and belligerent) man.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Book of History

More than a few years ago I purchased a complete set of the Book of History. I fancied myself a history guy, and thought they would be kinda cool to have. Two moves later, and they are still in my possession, all 18 volumes.

In the hopes of ridding myself of these weighty tomes via craigslist, I brought one inside and took some photos. And skimmed the first volume to see what it was about. What an odd set of books. There is zero information about its publication: no date, no company, no copyright. There is a list of authors, though, and tonight I Googled the most prominent, Viscount Bryce.

Turns out the books were written between 1915 and 1921. And they're quite progressive for their time, as you can see: "It is very possible that they are mentally inferior to the whites; but not so inferior as is commonly believed." The black races are potentially not that inferior to white races. Virtually open-minded these men were.

Okay, kidding aside, I wonder just how progressive this thinking was. Relating it to football (like I tend to do on occasion):
It may have been possible to have seen the first black footballer playing for England back in the 1920's with London-born Jack Leslie, a prolific striker for Plymouth Argyle between 1920 & 1935, scoring over 400 goals. Leslie had been informed by his manager Bob Jack that he had been selected to play for England. He later received communication cancelling his call up to the England team stating that they didn't realise he was ‘a man of colour’. Jack Leslie later remarked in 1982 to Brian Woolnough: “They must have forgotten I was a coloured boy.”
Racism was fairly common at the time in England. Even considering the possibility that "the black races" weren't inferior to white folk must have been fairly forward thinking. It's so difficult to judge historical attitudes.

Bartolomé de las Casas is often cited as a person who knew better at the time. He was a Spanish priest who, after witnessing the crazy exploitation of Native Americans by the Spanish, became a staunch defender of the rights of natives. He famously defended their... (have to publish to get around my failing autosave; watch for part II).

I just realized this topic is way too huge. Suffice it to say that de las Casas might not have been the paragon of virtue that he is at times made out to be. I have read that he did not feel as strongly about African slaves as he did Native Americans, though I really do need to back up this rumour with fact if I'm going to continue spreading it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Myth of Vancouver's Downtown Density

Capitalized, like it's a title of a Hardy Boys mystery.

After the Pride Parade a friend and I were walking back up through the West End and as we walked past a park on a treed avenue she expressed amazement that we were walking through the densest neighbourhood in North America. I had heard this a few times, and was at first sceptical but accepted it. But it raised two questions for me tonight as I walked around downtown Vancouver: 1) What exactly is the myth of Vancouver's density? and 2) Is it true?

I've just returned from a Google chat with that friend, and she says that the West End (or the downtown peninsula) is the densest neighbourhood in North America. Hmmmm, will check that.

According to Wikipedia: "Vancouver's population density on the downtown peninsula is 121 people per hectare (or 49 people per acre), according to the 2001 census." (from a City of Vancouver info sheet)

Also from Wikipedia: "New York County (which contains Manhattan) had the highest population density with a calculated 104.218 persons per acre." (from the 2000 US census)

So, they myth is busted. According to Wikipedia. Or is it? Old data, right? High growth, right? And there was this odd bit to the City of Vancouver info sheet:

Downtown Local Area population change: +215% (1991 to 2001)

What does "local area" mean in regards to downtown Vancouver? I'll try to find that out.

Meanwhile... Density on the downtown peninsula is actually 63 persons per acre, according to a much newer fact sheet from the city, and the Downtown Local Area pop. change is +55%. Mad growth since 2001. Enough to surpass Manhattan's 104 persons per acre? (more on this below)

I've just found a few more info sheets on the City's website, and they make for interesting reading. According to the 2006 census, the "Downtown Local Area" has 43,415 residents (oddly, another sheet says 43,417) on 375 hectares of land. Sounds like a lot. The West End, at 44,560 residents on 204 hectares, is substantially more dense. Could this be it? With the conversion from hectares to acres (2.47 acres/hectare) we are left with a density of...wait for it....88.43 persons per acre, almost 16 persons/acre short of the US/Canada record.*

Is there any hope?

The downtown pop. growth has been substantial (+55% in the last five years), so is it possible that it has grown enough in two years to surpass Manhattan? Let's explore the possibility: 43,417 (taking the more generous figure) on 926.25 acres (375 hectares) gives us a measly 46.87 persons/acre. There is no way the population of the area has grown by more than 100% in two years.

What about the West End? Maybe it has experienced significant growth as well, and has overcome that 16 p/a gulf. Well, judging by census figures, chances are slim to none (with an emphasis on none). Population growth since 2001 was 5.8% (and was lower from 1996 to 2001), or about 500 people per year. Even with a generous estimate of an extra 1000 people/year, the density would only have reached 92.40 persons/acre, still more than 10 p/a short of Manhattan. And this is all assuming that Manhattan's density has remained constant, something I highly doubt. A glance at US census data shows Manhattan's population grew from 1990 to 2000, and according to Wikipedia it has continued to grow since then, and at a faster rate.

So, the Myth of Vancouver's Downtown Density has been busted. It is not the densest neighbourhood in North America, but it does come close.

* I am not delving into Mexican population statistics right now.

Edit: A Google search and some quick calculations showed the densest area of Mexico City with a density of 70.14 persons/acre.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Prediction results

I'll have some comments on the election later. For now, here are my prediction results:

Riding-------------My prediction-----------------Result
NW-Coq-----------Dawn Black by 1,800----------Black by 1,490
Burnaby-Doug----Bill Siksay by 500--------------Siksay by 798
Burnaby-NW------Peter Julian by 4500----------Julian by 6,994
Van Kingsway-----Wendy Yuan by 2,500------Don Davies by 2,799
Van Quadra-------Joyce Murray by 3,300--------Murray by 4,808
Van Centre--------Hedy Fry by 1,700--------------Fry by 5,214
Van East-----------Libby by 11,500----------------Libby by 15,379

Not a bad record, and decent numbers. I worked the first three, so had a bit more information to work with. I shortened Libby's margin a few days ago, should have left it (at 13,500), and I switched to Fry after a poorly thought-out Byers prediction. I put too much value in Kingsway as a Liberal riding (should have listened to friends in the Davies campaign). But I am quite happy with my Vancouver Quadra call. Some people were calling this one close, putting too much value on the by-election results last year.

Monday, October 13, 2008


What is the point of all this if the only difference is slightly more NDP and Bloc seats and slightly less Liberal and seats?

Significant aspects of this election:

1) NDP laying claim to the possibility of governing this great land. 20% of the popular vote isn't that far from 28%, where the Liberals sit. It's a far cry from 35-38%, true, but it does signify a change in the tone of the NDP leadership.

2) The Bloc is not a spent force. A while ago it seemed like the Bloc was on the way out. No new ideas. A lack of identity without any real move toward sovereignty, and so on. Harper gifted them this, but the readiness with which voters moved back to the Bloc means they are and will be a meaningful force in federal politics for a while.

3) Stephane Dion on the come-back trail. I'm not sure how much he actually did (good reviews in both debates), and there remains the possibility that he'll be canned after the election is over, but I think he has shown Canadians that he isn't just an acharismatic egghead.

4) Last but not least: The coming-out party (ultimately a disappointment) of the Green party. Did they think they would finally win a seat? Why did Adriane Carr run in Vancouver Centre? We'll have to see what the final numbers are, but I'm pretty sure they'll improve on their vote total of 2006. May did very well in the debates, but until the Greens establish a voter-base and expand their party identity, they will struggle to retain the numbers they poll in the weeks leading up to the final vote.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Seat total predictions

Seats in Parliament as of the dissolution for the election, according to Wikipedia:
Cons - Libs - Bloc - NDP - Green - Ind

Current prediction from
Cons - Libs - Bloc - NDP - Green - Ind

If this is the final result (and it won't be), is there a winner? Does Harper keep on keepin' on? Does Dion remain, on the strength of his comeback? Does Layton trumpet his gains while decrying the electoral system (I would)? Does Elizabeth May have anything to add to the conversation? And who are these independents?

Prediction from the UBC Election Stock Market (as of 11:15am Thursday the 9th):
Cons - Libs - Bloc - NDP - Green - Ind

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Was I wrong? aka Federal polling V

"2008 federal election: In the space of a few years, the once fragmented right returns to power while the once natural governing party is is reduced to one of three parties on the fragmented left."

This was my cheeky little line about the 2008 election before it was over. I just saw some numbers that seem to indicate that the Liberals have rebounded and today I read for the first (and possibly only) time that the Conservatives may lose seats this election. Is that possible? I don't have the wherewithal to research the various close ridings, but these come to mind: The Bloc is again in first in the polls in Quebec. The Liberals are back on top in Ontario. The NDP are swinging for the fences in BC.

Edit: I just read an Accidental Deliberations post that tried to work out why the Conservatives' election strategy isn't going so well and why they might not be able to re-focus their strategy. Very interesting. They may not have room to move on the economy, which is now front and centre.

Mini election prediction

I'm only going to predict a few ridings, and some aren't that difficult to call, so this is a bit of a waste of your time and mine, but I have to get my feet wet sometime.

Libby Davies cakewalks in Vancouver East: margin: 11500 votes
Dawn Black will hold onto New West-Coq-Port Moody: 1800 votes
Bill Siksay will win a squeaker in Burnaby-Douglas: 500 votes
Wendy Yuan will win Vancouver-Kingsway: 2500 votes*
Peter Julian is safe in New West-whatever it's called: 4500 votes
Joyce Murray takes Vancouver-Quadra: not as close as some think, 3300 votes

And Vancouver-Centre? Good luck. I have a feeling Hedy Fry will finally lose, but that feeling isn't solid. Is her time up? Do new residents forget her work in 80s? Will Michael Byers draw out the young and idealistic lefty votes? How much of a spoiler will Adriane Carr play? I'm going out on a limb and picking Byers by 350 votes.

Edit: Hedy Fry by 1700 votes. I just don't see Mayencourt stealing many votes from Hedy, and I get the feeling that the Byers campaign isn't going as well as hoped.

*pure guesswork. I've heard Don Davies is doing well, but I have a gut feeling the Liberals will take this.