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Musings of a Bearded Lefty
Diatribes of a Misanthrope
I've been asked by one or two people why I haven't updated this LJ in about four or five months. Fair question. There are three answers:

1. Between teaching two courses a term, researching my dissertation, keeping up a moderate level of activism in the community, and trying to have some semblance of a social life, I haven't set aside the time to sit down and write here. After six to eight hours a day of reading and writing, I'm not sure I want to read and write.

2. I was at a crossroads as to what this LJ was about. I posted about Canadian politics, gaming, my life, CanRock, etc. I felt like it was too scattered.

3. I wasn't sure if anybody was actually reading this anymore.

So. How about this? I'll come back tomorrow and post something about what I've been up to in five months, okay? And eventually I'll get back to reading the friend's list as well.
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What was one of the most boring election campaigns in recent history turned in to one of the most exciting election nights. The results are rather interesting, and do confirm one thing: even being incredibly unpopular means you can be re-elected. On that note, lets get one thing clear: nobody can claim victory.

McGuinty was obviously re-elected, but he was unable to keep the majority government he won in 2003 and 2007. Being held to a minority government is nothing to be happy about. Hudak cannot claim victory either: all polls in the summer indicated he was on the path to forming a strong Progressive Conservative majority government, but he only manged to pick up twelve seats. Some may say that Horwath can claim victory, as she picked up seven seats, but I disagree: while a seven seat pickup is quite good, the federal NDP took 22 seats in Ontario in May, and some of the seats that Horwath didn't win were embarrassing. On top of that, she lost at least one seat (York South-Weston) to the Liberals.

Let's start in Niagara, where all four ridings were status quo. Welland returned Cindy Forster of the NDP in a convincing victory. Tim Hudak was also returned in Niagara West-Glanbrook. In St. Catharines, Jim Bradley held the riding for the Liberals, which should earn Bradley a post in cabinet - St. Catharines was one by the Conservatives federally, and Bradley staved off a strong Conservative challenge. Niagara Falls turned into one of the most interesting races of the night. Kim Craitor, who held the riding for the Liberals, is an interesting character. He has been a strong critic of the Liberals from within his own party, he did not put the word "Liberal" on his election signs, and if you go to his website, he does not identify as a Liberal there. And yet, he managed to cling to the seat in what was probably one of the few three way races in Ontario - he kept both a Conservative and New Democrat at bay.

Some other races that I found interesting:

It is time for the New Democrats to stop trying to win Oshawa. Oshawa has long been a target for the NDP both federally and provincially, yet the Conservatives have held it since 2004 federally (and the Toronto held it before the Tories) and since 1995 provincially. While there is a tradition of the riding electing New Democrats, the demographics of the riding has shifted, and I think it is time for the party to move on, at least when they are running a riding-by-riding campaign, rather than a truly provincial campaign.

One of the reasons that I think the ONDP cannot really claim victory were their losses in Ottawa Centre, Sudbury, and York South-Weston. The NDP has held these three ridings federally since 2004, 2008, and 2011 respectively. Now, those are recent wins for the federal party, but most projections suggested that the NDP could at least count on some degree of afterglow from their "orange crush" in May. It's really surprising that the provincial party couldn't hold Sudbury and York South-Weston, especially given that York South-Weston was held by a provincial incumbent, and that the main bastions of provincial NDP strength are Toronto and Northern Ontario.

I was also really surprised at the outcome in Trinity-Spadina, Olivia Chow's federal riding. Chow won the riding quite handily, but Rosario Marchese, the NDP candidate provincially won by only 1300 votes, which was a much smaller margin of victory than his victory in 2007.

A few other thoughts:

The Green Party's vote has totally imploded: dropping from 8% in 2007 to 2.9% last night. I really cannot explain that - but it is surprising; the Greens are now back in the fringe, rather than creeping towards the mainstream.

The election results prove do be rather problematic for the federal Conservatives. The Harper Conservatives went out of their way to endorse Hudak and his candidates - a number of federal cabinet ministers endorsed candidates and even campaigned for the provincial party. This means that the Federal government will have to interact with a provincial government they openly campaigned against.

Lastly. Andrea Horwath is currently the most powerful politician in Ontario. She should be able to leverage some of her platform planks into public policy, but I suspect that she can't push too hard. McGuinty will be able to rule like he has a majority for at least a year or so. The NDP won't want to force an election soon, so while they can get some things from the Liberals, their arm isn't that strong. But, the Liberals may be scared enough to grant the NDP some of the things they want.

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The NDP leadership race is heating up, with new candidates declared over the weekend. So far four hats have been thrown into the ring - Nathan Cullen, Paul Dewar, Romeo Saganash and Brian Topp, and others are expected to announce soon. What has been of interest is how much of the party has coalesced around Brian Topp: Ed Broadbent, Roy Romanow, and a host of MLAs and MPs have endorsed Topp. No other candidate has amassed this level of support early on in the campaign.

I think it would be a bad idea for this leadership race to turn into an anointing, and I have serious doubts about Topp as a leader. Many New Democrats assume that they can simply replace Layton with anybody who has a pulse and is bilingual, and then build towards the next federal election. This is a huge mistake. It ignores the fact (as I, and many others, have repeated) that the Orange Crush was a phenomena inside Quebec, and there is no guarantee that the NDP support will stay high in Quebec, or that they will be able to win ridings in other provinces. It also ignores the fact that leadership races where there is a clear frontrunner for the entire race, who isn't really properly vetted, have had a disastrous effect on the NDP and on other parties.

Case one: the replacement of Ed Broadbent with Audrey McLaughlin. In the 1988 election, Broadbent's popularity was well above that of the NDP, and his personal popularity brought the party to its then-best showing: 44 seats. (Yes, it does sound eerily familiar). Broadbent subsequently retired, and a leadership race ensued. McLaughlin was the perceived frontrunner for the entire campaign, and she won on the fourth ballot of the leadership convention, finishing first on all four ballots. Never seriously challenged during the leadership campaign, she was seen as the natural inheritor to the party leadership. Subsequently, she oversaw the most massive decline of the NDP, culminating in the 1993 election where the NDP won 9 seats with 7% of the popular vote. (There were many, many more variables in play in 1993, so she cannot be solely to blame).

Case two: Kim Cambell. The natural frontrunner to replace Mulroney, and had the support of a good deal of the party establishment, won the leadership of the PCs (and became the Prime Minister) on the second ballot. Subsequently led the party from a majority government to two seats in the House.

Case three: The Liberals. The entire party coalesced around Michael Ignatieff after Dion's resignation, seeing Ignatieff as the new way forward, who could defeat Harper. In fact, in 2009, he was endorsed with 97% of the vote at the Liberal convention, after all other candidates had withdrawn. And we all know how that played out.

My point here is this: rushing to replace a leader so the party can "get on with it" can have a disastrous effect on the party. Leadership races can be internally divisive, and they can air a party's dirty laundry for all voters to see. The result can be standing behind a leader and either having too many dissenting voices as those who were not successful grumble, or all the voices becoming yes-men, which prevents a vigorous internal debate about policy and strategy.

I am also concerned that Topp may not be the man to lead this current party. Topp, while he does have links to the labour movement, comes from the right wing of the party. He's publicly stated he supports the Greek austerity measures, which clamp down on the working class and unions in Greece. He's come out in favour of removing the 25% voting block the Labour movement gets at NDP conventions. His is avowedly third-way in his politics, and many of the people supporting him are also from the right wing of the NDP. In short, an election of Topp would drag the party to the right. Considering the NDP is in the position it is in now due to a strong showing in Quebec, a province that elects parties which show a traditional social democratic world-view, moving away from that world-view could be disastrous.

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The campaign in Ontario remains rather lackluster and boring. I still have yet to be excited about the campaign. The polls all suggest the same thing: a minority government of one stripe or another. What is interesting is that we probably won't "know" who's going to form government until Thursday. All polls suggest that there will be a minority government, but not which party will form government.

The only party that stands to claim the campaign was a success, at this point, is the NDP. The NDP look ready to double, or better, their seat count of 10 at dissolution. The Liberals, if they aren't returned with a majority, can hardly claim success. The PCs, who in the summer looked like they could win a strong majority government, won't be able to claim victory if they simply hold McGuinty to a minority. On the note of a potential minority government, Hudak is screaming and crying that the Liberals and the NDP are making "back room deals" and not letting the people decide. What's this? A conservative politician screaming about the other parties co-operating? Haven't we heard this before? For the record, there is absolutley no shred of evidence which suggests that the NDP and Liberals are even talking, but since when have "facts" stopped a good scare-mongering?

For the record, let's give Hudak a little lesson in civics: Under the Westminster parliamentary system, the people elected a parliament, and the parliament elects a government. To suggest that any co-operation or coalition is undemocratic is preposterous. Further, under our system, the people don't decide the government, the elected members of provincial parliament do.

The one thing in the past week that I did actually find rather interesting was the statement by Rob Ford that he would not be endorsing a party in the Ontario election, as none of them promised to give what he wanted to Toronto. This is interesting in that earlier on this year Ford had promised to "unleash Ford Nation" on McGuinty to help drive him out of the Pink Palace. Now, I'm speculating here, but I think it's possible Ford's refusal to not endorse somebody has come at the request of Hudak himself. Ford's popularity is plummeting in the polls and Toronto is embroiled over a debate about service cuts and public sector rollbacks. This has really energized the city's progressive elements, and its possible that a Ford endorsement could actually hurt the endorsee. I can see it being within the realm of possibility that Ford called Hudak and said "I'm ready to endorse you" and Hudak saying "hold off - that will just hurt me. I'll just do what you want even though you don't endorse me." I can't say that this happened, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did.

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Forum research has conducted one of the largest polls in Canadian political history. The findings: there will probably be a minority government elected on October 6th, and the NDP will hold the balance of power.

I'm not really surprised by these findings. Politics in Ontario is becoming increasingly polarized between rural and urban, with the PCs projected to win most the seats in rural Ontario, especially in the East of the province, and the Liberals remaining strong in the urban pockets. The NDP, for their part, will hold on to their traditional pockets of support in Hamilton, Toronto and the North.

One thing this poll does is frustrate attempts to predict ridings - with the Liberals and the PCs this close, most predictions can go out the window. But, some general trends. First, there's a chance that the NDP will really feel the squeeze - while before polls were suggesting they may be able to double their seat count by picking up seats across the province, polls now suggest that they may just break even. Some interesting ridings (Welland, the Windsor ridings, and the North) are too close to call - there's a chance the NDP may actually lose seats, but that is unlikely.

The Liberals are poised to take a hit in Northern Ontario - I suspect there is a very good chance the Liberals will be locked out of the North. McGuinty made an interesting strategy choice by ducking the so-called 'Northern issues' debate. This gives the impression, right or not, that the Liberals don't really care about the North.

The question remains: how much will the leadership debates change this? Neither Hudak nor Horvath have debated before, which means while amateurs, they are both somewhat unknown to the voters. Two things could happen: first, the debate could confirm what people have been thinking through the campaign, and not many voter intentions could shift, or, second, Hudak and Horvath could change perceptions through a stellar debate performance and dramatically alter their respective party's showings.

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And its a pretty boring election, isn't it? Seriously - I haven't seen a lot of signs up, people don't really seem to be talking about the election, and there haven't been many stories that capture more than one news cycle.

There are a few plausible explanations for the lackluster campaign. First, people may be suffering from election fatigue - the Federal election in the spring may be enough electioneering for one year. Many people who study Ontario politics also suggest that Ontario voters look for parties to 'mind the store' - they want a party which will implement change slowly, and will be generally prudent with the finances. This would suggest that a "boring" campaign is actually a standard Ontario campaign - the parties are all planning on 'minding the store.'

I have to say I've been rather amused with the way Hudak is sabotaging his own campaign. During the summer, all polls pointed to a Progressive Conservative majority. Most polls now have the election too close to call, or are calling for a Liberal minority government. First, Hudak hasn't really introduced public policy in any meaningful sense. Second, he opens himself up to claims of racism (which are still in the news) over the "foreigners took our jobs."

I am growing ever more convinced that Hudak just isn't that smart. I'm serious. There are a lot of politicians who I don't agree with who I still respect for their political savvy - Harper comes to mind. But, I have had the "pleasure" of arguing with Hudak in person on a number of occasions when he was in the Harris cabinet. Whenever you criticized a public policy, Hudak would reply "this is the Mike Harris plan and we're sticking too it." I often compare this to my similar yelling matches with next-door-to-Hudak MPP Bart Maves, who would at least engage with me and use his own words. Currently, it seems the Hudak line is "Ontario families."

I have a hard time believing that the families rhetoric is what will win the election for Hudak. Talking about families is almost always conservative code for talking about social and Christian conservatism. This will certainly earn Hudak votes in areas where the Progressive Conservatives already hold seats - which isn't what Hudak needs. If he wants to win the election, he needs seats in the 905 and 416 - especially in Toronto proper. The family rethoric isn't going to win votes with single urban professionals, students, or dual-income-no-kids - all found in Urban areas.

Some predictions. For the Liberals, this election is tough - McGuinty doesn't have a lot to gain, but he does have a lot to lose. I'm pretty sure that he'll win the election, but that the Liberals will lose a lot of seats in the process.

Tim Hudak's Tories have a lot of places to pick up seats, but I don't expect enough to form government. Many seats in rural Ontario (Eastern Ontario, Southern Ontario and Mid-western Ontario) are set to switch from the Liberals to the PCs. The trouble for Hudak is that the Tories probably can't flip enough seats to form government - they just don't have enough support in the GTA.

Andrea Horwath and the NDP find themselves in a similar position. They will probably take seats, but not enough to even move into official opposition. The NDP are poised to make major gains in the North - they could potentially win 7 to 9 of the 10 seats in the North. The NDP are also poised to win seats in the urban areas in Ontario - they will probably pick up a seat or two in Ottawa, Windsor, and Hamilton, as well as retaining their one seat in Niagara. The NDP is also in a position to take a good number of seats from the Grits in Toronto. But, the NDP can't make the gains in rural Ontario to take enough seats to leapfrog into the Official Opposition.

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I know its been a while since I've done a proper post, and I know pile-o-links is the weakest form of blogging. That said, I was doing my morning read of the Star before I headed off to school for the day, and two things popped out. They both caused me to spew vitriol at the computer screen, and given enough time I could crank out a really lengthy rant about both. But, as I need to shortly be out the door, I will instead give you the links to two really terrible stories.

First, a star investigation has shown that private high schools are incredibly corrupt. It turns out that for many private highschools, it is possible to re-take tests by paying a fee, students are often left unattended during tests with access to the internet, questions which are 'hard' are removed from final exams, students are able to take classes without a prerequisite, and credits have been granted to students who attend less than half of the course. One of the end results of this is that these students show up to University completely unprepared and with a massive sense of entitlement.

It also shows that, despite everything the right wing talking heads say, the private sector often does a worse job of delivering services that the public sector is supposed to deliver. It also shows that there are basically two education systems: one for the uber-rich who can buy their way into a diploma, and one for everybody who isn't uber-rich. Did somebody say "class divided society?"

Onto angering event number two, speaking of undergrads with a massive sense of entitlement. At Université de Montréal a rather large group of undergrads were taken to a "sporting event" and encourage to - get this - dress in blackface and speak in a mock Jamaican accent. They proceeded to go to said sporting event in said costumes. One student, not part of the Roving Horde of Racism, who happened to be Jamaican we disturbed and offended, and complained. The response from the school was "err, umm, yeah, this was bad. We're sorry." Which is kind of half-assed, but whatever. But the response from those who organized the event? It was to defend their actions!

Rather than apologize to the real Jamaican about the incident and say "you're right, dressing in Blackface is really offensive" he said there has been a "great deal of misunderstanding" and "that in no way were they a racist act" and wouldn't apologize. So not only do you encourage racism among your undergrads, but you won't apologize for it? Seriously?
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The first round of election period polls are out, and for the first time McGunity has a lead. This is important if only because Hudak led virtually every poll for more than a year.

Nanos (which is, as far as I'm concerned, the most reliable polling firm) has the Grits at 38%, the Tories at 34% and the Dippers at 24%. Ipsos has the parties at 38, 37 and 24, respectively. It should be noted that in both polls, the Liberal lead is within the margin of error.

Why have the Liberals jumped into the lead? Well, it seems as if the only thing that has really motivated a switch in voters has been Hudak's remarks about "foreigners taking our jobs." That was, as a myriad of people who know anything about Ontario politics suggested, enough to move people back to the Liberals. It has also meant that McGuinty now has the advantage, and that Hudak missed a week of attacking the Liberals track record.

Today McGuinty demanded that Hudak apologize for the comments about foreigners, and Hudak refused to do so. This will certainly cost him more points. McGuinty can press this advantage to introduce new public policies and once again appear as the natural leader of Ontario.

Now, four weeks is a long time in politics, but this really suggests that Hudak has a lot of catching up to do.

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...but what I am saying is that Tim Hudak is a racist. No, seriously, I am not being facetious here - any party leader who promises to protect your province from foreigners deserves the label racist.

Dalton McGuinty has promised, if re-elected, he will introduce a program which will subsidize employers for hiring recent immigrants to Canada. The purpose of this program is to help immigrants who have foreign credentials get hired, get Canadian experience, and get their credentials recognized. The cliche of PhDs driving taxi cabs is unfortunately true in Canada - most professional associations in Canada do not recognize most foreign credentials. The trouble is that it is much easier to immigrate to Canada if you are a skilled worker. So, lawyers, engineers, doctors, nurses, and many of the other professionals we sorely need in Canada are recognized by immigration policies as being "wanted," but then when they get here, they find that the professional organizations in Canada will not honour those same credentials that got them into Canada in the first place.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. It leaves skilled immigrants working low waged jobs, which means they often have to disproportionately rely on the social security net, it doesn't make sense in the job market, and it overburdens the Canadian education system with immigrants "re-earning" degrees they already have. There are a number of reasons to fast track these people into jobs for which they are already trained. While I have a myriad of issues with McGuinty, this proposal is actually good public policy.

Which, of course, is why Hudak is opposing it. It seems that anything that makes sense must be attacked by Hudak. And his response is pretty disgusting. Now, if you really opposed this policy, there are a number of small-c conservative ways to oppose it. Primarily, you could say that the government shouldn't interfere with the market, and be done with it. But no, Hudak has actually said that he wants to keep jobs in Ontario for Ontarians, not foreigners. Yes, that's right, we should be wary of the foreigners on the job market. I've heard this type of sophisticated political analysis somewhere else....

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