Friday, May 7, 2010

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that Swing...

Do-wa, do-wa, do-wa, do-wa, do-wa, do-wa, do-wa....

The British election sure turned out to be a bit of a surprise. Everyone was expecting the Liberal Democrats to make massive gains. While a minority parliament, or, as they call it, a hung parliament was predicted, no one expected the Liberal Democrats to do so poorly and Labour to do so, relatively, well. Fivethirtyeight.com predicted 312 seats for the Conservatives, 204 for Labour, and 103 for the Liberal Democrats. As of writing, with 23 seats left to call, the Conservatives have won 295 to Labour's 252 and the Liberal Democrats' 53.

The lesson is that we projectors can't limit ourselves only to what the polls say. We're only as good as the information provided. I'll have a little more on that next week, with a possible tweak to the model.

One of the words I heard a lot during the election and especially during last night's coverage on the BBC was "swing". So, using the UBC's election forecaster, I took a look at what kind of swing each party needs from the 2008 election to reach their goals. First, let's start with the Conservatives and their elusive goal of a majority government.What I did was see what kind of swing was needed to give the Conservatives 155 seats. First, I looked at an isolated swing from each opposition party to the Conservatives, and then I looked at a uniform swing from all of the opposition parties to the Tories.

The smallest swing needed is a 4% swing from all of the other parties to the Tories. This would bump the Conservatives up to 40.1% and their majority, reducing the Liberals to 25.2%, the New Democrats to 17.5%, and the Bloc Québécois to 9.6%.

Only a 7% swing is needed from the Liberals to the Conservatives to give the Tories 155 seats. They would have 39.5% of the vote to the Liberals' 24.4% and 63 seats.

A 12% swing from the NDP would bump the Conservatives up to 39.8%, reducing the NDP to 16% and 28 seats.

The Conservatives would need 23% of the Bloc vote in Quebec to be bumped up to 22 seats in the province, and 155 nationally. The Bloc would be reduced to 29.3% in the province and 32 seats.

Fifty-eight percent of the Green vote, dropping them to 2.8%, would bump the Conservatives up to 41.6%.

This shows that the Conservatives aren't too far from their majority, needing only a 4% uniform swing from the opposition or a 7% uniform swing from the Liberals. They can also get there with the NDP, but neither the Bloc nor the Greens are an efficient target.

Now, the Liberals and their goal of forming a minority government.The quickest route to power is an 11% swing from all of the other parties. This would increase the Liberal vote to 34.4% and give them 119 seats, compared to the Conservatives at 33.5%, the NDP at 16.2%, and the Bloc at 8.9%.

A 16% swing from the Conservatives would also give the Liberals their minority, with only 32.3% of the vote. The Conservatives would be bumped down to 31.6%. The NDP pick-up a few seats as well.

Then it gets much trickier. Fully 62% of the NDP vote would need to go the Liberals for them to form a minority. With the Conservatives at 37.7%, this transfer would give the Liberals 37.5% and a narrow, two-seat minority. The NDP, dropped to 6.9%, would not win a seat.

Neither the Bloc nor the Greens alone can give the Liberals the minority they want. If the Bloc died off and all of its support went to the Liberals, they would still only win 132 seats to the Conservatives' 139. The Liberals would be at 36.2% of the vote, 61.9% in Quebec (where they win 69 seats), but still not have enough. And if all Green support went to the Liberals, they would only have 33% of the vote and 97 seats to the Conservatives' 131. Neither the NDP nor the Bloc would be severely reduced by this.

This shows how tricky it will be for the Liberals to form the next government without support from another party. They need relatively significant swings from the other parties or the Conservatives, and even then it is a near-run thing. The NDP, while stealing some of their votes, should not be the target of the Liberals.

Now, the New Democrats, and their goal of becoming the alternative in Canada and the Official Opposition. This exercise is a demonstration in the absurdities of our system.They would need a 17% swing from all the other parties to the NDP for them to form the Official Opposition. In such a situation, the Tories would form government with only 31.3% of the vote. Indeed, with 32.1% of the vote (more than any other party), the NDP would still only win 68 seats. The Liberals would be reduced to 21.8% and 64 seats and the Bloc to 8.3% and 47 seats.

If the Liberals lost 23% of their vote to the NDP, the Conservatives would form a majority government. But, with 24.2% of the vote, the NDP would win 50 seats and tie with the Bloc. The Liberals would be reduced to 20.2% but still 47 seats.

With 33% of the Conservative vote going to the NDP, the Liberals win the most amount of seats with only 26.3% of the vote! The NDP, with 30.6%, win only 79 seats and form the Official Opposition. The Conservatives would be reduced to 25.2% and 73 seats.

A swing of 55% from the Bloc to the NDP would give the NDP 81 seats nationally, with 23.7% of the vote. The Liberals would be reduced to 80 seats with 26.3% of the vote.

Finally, if every single Green vote went NDP, the party would only win 48 seats with 25.0% of the vote. With only 26.3%, the Liberals would win 73.

This shows the limits of our first-past-the-post system. The Bloc Québécois has always been used as an example, but that is more easily explained away by the fact that the Bloc is a regional party that wins in most of the ridings in which it runs.

If the NDP ever succeeds in becoming a third party equal to the others, it would really throw Canadian politics out of whack. This little exercise has shown that even winning the national popular vote wouldn't be enough to give the NDP enough seats to form government. Our system is designed as a two-party system, something the Bloc has used to its advantage in Quebec. But if Canadian politics becomes a three-party affair, the system would fall apart and hardly resemble anything close to democratic.

95 comments:

  1. What this really means is that in order to move the country in any kind of progressive direction, the Libs and the Dems should be at the table talking electoral strategy, and demonstrating that they can work together. A united centre-left coalition party (call it the... Lib-Dems, maybe?) they could potentially even win an outright majority of the popular vote and the seats.

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  2. The Liberal-Democrats might have been a good option, if the Liberal-Democrats in the UK hadn't tanked.

    But I've looked at this situation before, and it isn't as clear-cut as you'd think. Not all Liberals and Dippers would want to vote for a Liberal-NDP party.

    But, if you take the UBC forecaster and give all NDP votes to the Liberals, you get 153 for the Lib-Dems, 112 for the Conservatives, and 41 for the Bloc. So the 2008 support levels wouldn't give the Lib-Dems a majority, and that is with all Liberals and NDPers voting for the Lib-Dems.

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  3. Dan:
    call it the... Lib-Dems, maybe?

    Just to prevent confusion with the UK situation why not use something like LND for our setup?

    It looks to me as if we are in for a period of minority-coalition Govt despite what Shady thinks.

    Is that bad? IMO probably not, the more social policy side of Govt will be better supported though one does worry about the financial side.

    Comments ?

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  4. If the NDP and Liberals were to try and get together, there's no reason they couldn't try to rope in the Greens too.

    Anyway, the above seems to suggest that the Liberals and NDP shouldn't really be fighting each other at all.

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  5. "there's no reason they couldn't try to rope in the Greens too."

    What would be the sense? the Greens have no seats and probably won't have any for a while.

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  6. Peter: It looks to me as if we are in for a period of minority-coalition Govt despite what Shady thinks.

    Is that bad? IMO probably not, the more social policy side of Govt will be better supported though one does worry about the financial side.


    Fiscal problems don't come from leftiness. The Grits brought us into the black and the Tories back into the red (and yes, context is everything). Tommy Douglas was adamant that social spending had to be based on a solid, sustainable budget.

    Fiscal problems come from instability, when the government feels it has to buy off voters or potential voters in order to cling to power. Stable governments can do what's right instead of what's expedient.

    Stability in this country traditionally came from a majority. That was then. Those days are not coming back. We need a different sort of stability and there's a clear road to follow.

    The other route to stability is cooperation. In modern governments this normally takes the form of a coalition; Europeans see that word as the norm, not something to scare small children with. An accord is also possible, or even just an understanding based on the common good of the country.

    We'll see this come the fall. The current opposition parties will band together after the election to support a stable minority government and the business of the nation will be conducted in a more seemly fashion. There will be horse-trading, of course, but there will be enough respect that tactical considerations won't trump strategic ones. Canadian voters don't like deficits and the only debate is how quickly we should return to surplus. Working together, today's opposition will get there faster than today's government can do working alone.

    "Some say I'm a dreamer", but this is based on what I see with my eyes wide open.

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  7. Liberals and NDP aren't the same people though.

    Somebody like John Manley, who's now a lobbyist for big bussiness.

    Is he going to want to go down that road ?

    Now compared to a decade ago that wing of the party has shrunk. Maybe its only 10-20%. But losing that little bit could be enough for a CPC majority.

    IN many, many ridings the CPC hasn't yet reached Alliance + PC.

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  8. PoscStudent: What would be the sense [in bringing Greens into an arrangement between the Liberals and the NDP]? the Greens have no seats and probably won't have any for a while.

    If you mean a post-election agreement, European Greens have experience in coalitions and a Green caucus here would be open to the right arrangement. Until there are Greens on the Hill, the point is moot.

    Pre-election, there's no Green interest in merging with another party of any stripe. If we wanted to be Grits, Dippers, Tories or Bloquistes we'd be Grits, Dippers, Tories or Bloquistes. Nor will the Green Party be discussing strategic voting again. Period. On both these points I don't formally speak for the Party, but I have a strong feeling for its mood.

    If other parties are concerned with the right wing coming up the middle of a divided Grit/Dipper left, they should push for a proportional representation system. The corollary is that they have to share the sandbox after election day.

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  9. John:
    Stability in this country traditionally came from a majority. That was then. Those days are not coming back.

    Yes the days of majority Govt are essentially over. The coalition/cooperation idea is going to be all that is possible.

    This will be where ideology runs head on into reality. Can we get the pols out of the sandbox and actually accept reality? That's a big question and right now I don't see a clear answer. Do you ?

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  10. The Liberals need to keep their centrist position, going to far left will turn off alot of people.

    For the Liberals to do well they need to be a party where Progressive Conservatives as well as New Democrates can feel comfortable, going to far left won't help.

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  11. Peter: Can we get the pols out of the sandbox and actually accept reality? That's a big question and right now I don't see a clear answer. Do you ?

    We have lots of existence proofs that this works in Europe. My prediction above stands: we'll see the same here by the end of the year, with less formality. It might be easier under different leadership, but it will happen.

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  12. The NDP merging with the Liberals is a situation only palatable as a last resort. I personally find it better than a coalition, but nevertheless...

    The simple fact is that the NDP aren't going anywhere fast. I'm sorry, but they're not going to overtake the Liberals. We don't have the same major-urban industrial culture as the UK that allowed Labour to move up ahead of the Liberals. The NDP don't even come from the same roots as Labour - most of the NDP's early support came from conservative agrarian socialists. Labour came from progressive urban workers. Big difference!

    The NDP are a forever third-party, that will only get into government if there is a coalition, or if there is a merger.

    Simple as that.

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  13. Unless there is a major shift, in Canada minorities are probably here for the foreseeable future.

    Our politicians are going to have to accept this reality. They are going to have to cooperate and start to put the nation's interests first, and their own interests second.

    I would like all the parties to come together after an election, and realize that each party can make a valuable contribution.

    Each party has some good ideas. Each party has intelligent persons.

    Maybe if that was to happen our politicians would be surprised by the positive reaction from the public that they would get. They wouldn't have to worry about who got credit for good policy.

    Just dreaming? probably

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  14. Eric I thought you did some work awhile ago on second choices. Didn't you show that a complete merger would result in an almost perfect 50-50 split for the left/right parties if they didn't move up or down the spectrum much from where they are now??

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  15. If anyone is interested, Glen Pearson MP, has written an interesting article about some division in the Tory Caucus, about being whipped for the vote on the long gun registry.

    glenpearson.wordpress.com

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  16. By the way, may I point out the polling company that had the biggest margin of error for the UK election due to once again wildly overestimating third party and second party results? As is typical of every single one of their polls!?

    Angus Reid.

    I'm telling ya, there is something damn fishy about that company and its methodology.

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  17. Volkov:
    Angus Reid.

    I'm telling ya, there is something damn fishy about that company and its methodology.


    Yeah I was using the Telegraph UK site and they had several polling firms on there and AR was wildly off from everybody else. Made no sense whatever.

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  18. We have lots of existence proofs that this works in Europe.


    Yes we do but that's Europe. Not our "Wild West" where the best man wins.

    The problem is simple the solution is complex. In essence a complete re-think of what politics is about and I still don't see a willingness to do that.

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  19. PoscStudent said...
    "What would be the sense? "

    I believe we were talking about a merger, not a coalition. There would be votes to be had.

    Re: John
    Given the defining characteristics of the Green party's platform, I think a merged NDP/Liberal party may be right on the same ground. Maybe not. I would prefer electoral reform, but that would astually depend on putting a pro-reform group in office first.

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  20. volkov

    results
    36/29/23/12 Con/lab/ld/oth

    polls:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_in_the_United_Kingdom_general_election,_2010


    AR got the labour and the lib-dems basically backwards... but I gave you the polling record. Can you tell me which polling firm didn't as you say oversample the 3rd party??

    yougov was close the day before... but then they did another poll. other than that you have to go back 3 weeks to around the first debate to get a number that approximated the 3rd party support from any pollster.

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  21. Glen Pearson's letter doesn't surprise me, I always figured Harper would whip his MP's on free votes.

    Look at the Liberals' abortion vote a few weeks ago, not a single Conservative voted for it yet Jim Prentice has stated he is pro-choice and I'm sure he's not the only one.

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  22. Conservatives don't whip free votes. Period.

    PoscStudent the abortion vote wasn't whipped, James Moore came close to voting for it.

    But then at caucus Dean Del Mastro pointed out the bizzare anti-american language included in it and everybody agreed to vote against it on those grounds.

    Regardless Pearson did not include any names in his blog posting.

    Is he lying ? Why won't he reveal the names ?

    I want to know who the members are because for 3 elections now killing the gun registry has been in the Conservative election platform that those members ran on.

    Its not officially a whipped vote and no internal discipline is being threatened.

    But CPC MPs made a promise to the voters and if they break it I simply don't see how they could carry on being in the party.

    So at caucus level no its not whipped, but at the riding level there would be serious consequences for voting against this bill.

    Reminding MPs of that fact during a caucus meeting might cause grumbling but its not the same thing as being whipped.

    Words have definitions for a reason.

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  23. Conservative majority ?

    Its not off the table at all. CPC is within the MOE of a majority in certain polling.

    Any serious person has to understand that a CPC majority, minority, or even a LPC minority are all possible outcomes of the next election.

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  24. "Glen Pearson's letter doesn't surprise me, I always figured Harper would whip his MP's on free votes."

    Is Harper doing it better? or worse? than the liberals doing the same thing?

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  25. Is Harper doing it better? or worse? than the liberals doing the same thing?


    Harper doesn't come out and say MPs will be whipped like Ignatieff did, not a smart move by Ignatieff. I would say Harper has more control over his party and they just automatically know by now that they have to agree with him. They also need to look good so they can try and make it into cabinet.

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  26. Conservatives don't whip free votes. Period.

    One of the benefits of having Harper's culture of intimidation even against his own party is he need not officially whip anything, yet everyone behaves exactly as they would if he did.

    Ever notice how some people's dogs will cower in fear merely from the wrong look from the master? Very effective for animal control, but we prefer people to be free of living under such a culture of intimidation.

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  27. Posc Student/Liberal supporter I suppose this intimidation storyline is a logical extension of the PMO controls everything and Harper is a one man show storylines.

    There's some truth in it. I won't deny that.

    If fact i'd say in a minority situation it would be impossible to govern any other way.

    And it works. So much so that after Dion and Iggy's weak leadership Peter Donolo was called in to do the exact same thing.

    Everyone in the OLO had to start saying "sir", everyone was expected to now wear a suit and tie, and it was going to be a new age of caucus discipline built around a strong leader.

    Of course, it didn't last long. Its the same way in the US with the democrats. Like herding cats.


    Regardless, do you think the public actually cares ?

    Like is this really a good storyline to be pushing ? A good line of attack ?

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  28. Peter: British
    election leaves trail of Biggest Losers


    The last paragraph is particularly relevant:
    "What that says is that people still don't trust them. It also suggests people are a lot more angry with the politicians in Westminster than the politicians themselves have realised. That, for me, has been the underlying theme of this election campaign, which would always come out on polling day. People will be even more angry if the politicians start bickering among themselves and fail to form a coalition government quickly."

    Been there. Done that.

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  29. I mostly agree with Shadow on this one ... Harper runs a tight ship; his minions know who is boss; and the CPC benefits from it.

    Like it or not, many people prefer confidence and action over caution and agonizing ... regardless of which leads to a better eventual outcome.

    I don't like Harper ... but good on him for enforcing discipline in his ranks. The Liberals could learn a thing or two from him.

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  30. I was simply refuting you statement that "Conservatives don't whip free votes. Period." which gives the impression that individual MPs would go against the Party. When in fact, the CPC doesn't whip free votes because it doesn't have to, given their MPs are "whipped" as it is.

    There is a huge difference between having discipline, and having a culture of intimidation.

    Regardless, do you think the public actually cares ?
    Of course they do.

    Like is this really a good storyline to be pushing ? A good line of attack ?
    It is the truth, as you have admitted. It is a better line of attack than shouting "adscam" to any and all dissenters.

    You of all people understand the importance of hammering a point home over and over. Your repeated "Iggy = Dion" statement for example. Like the "culture of intimidation", as you say there is some truth in "Iggy = Dion" as well. It is of course comparing an election outcome with a current poll, which you know well are two different things, but the point remains that repetition of the "storyline" is something you do, though of course I would expect nothing less than you would do so, while dismissing anyone else repeating a storyline as just, repeating a storyline.

    So you will hear plenty about the culture of intimidation, and you will see it contrasted with the alternative, a culture of discipline. A culture of discipline may have similar outcomes, but it also involves things like "permission to speak freely", unlike the culture of intimidation.

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  31. Yeah John we have and I'd hazard currently are.

    That said it is incumbent on all the parties to start looking like mature adults.

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  32. Liberal Supporter i'm glad you guys have learnt about messaging.

    That wasn't what I was objecting to, merely the message that's been chosen.

    When I asked if you think Canadians care you said "of course they do" without providing further explanation or proof from polling data.

    If anything, given the CPC rise during these scandals I think the truth is the opposite.

    Right now polling shows that Canadians care about the economy.

    The Liberals could choose a much, much better message to repeat over and over again.

    How about tapping into fear of debt and interest rates ? The recent events in Greece ?

    How about going back to laying out plans for jobs ?

    How about attacking Jean Charest and the CPC for destroying medicare and pledge to defend public health care like Obama ?


    You know, like actually find a message Canadians care about instead of this inside baseball stuff.

    It just sounds like a cry baby. "Wha, wha, Harper is a bully, he's mean and he's beating us".

    It might get you some sympathy but it won't get you votes.

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  33. There are some Tory MPs from Quebec who have exclusively urban ridings in Quebec City where support for the gun registry is probably sky high. You have to wonder whether if it was truly a free vote - at least a couple of those urban Tory MPs from Quebec wouldn't be voting against scrapping the registry.

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  34. It's a good example of why Quebecers vote for the Bloc. Those Quebec Conservatives voted along party lines but against Quebec's interests.

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  35. Like is this really a good storyline to be pushing ? A good line of attack ?
    It is the truth, as you have admitted. It is a better line of attack than shouting "adscam" to any and all dissenters.


    Exactly LS. Nothing but smoke, mirrors and "talking points".

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  36. Eric, DL, those CPC members from urban Quebec City ridings were elected runing on a platform of killing the registry.

    It can't be that unpopular or that much against Quebec's interests if they got elected anyway.

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  37. Voting for a party does not mean a total, 100% approval of a party's platform. You know that.

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  38. Running for a party shouldn't mean the candidate agrees 100% with the party's platform either.

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  39. Eric urban voters can support killing the gun registry. You know that too.

    Right off the bat 40% of Canadians don't vote. CPC members are winning these Quebec City ridings with around 40% of the vote.

    So 24% of residents in these ridings, if highly energized against the gun registry could be the people voting for these CPC members.

    Because of first past the post an issue that is unpopular with even 76% of Quebeckers can be a winner for the CPC with enough GOTV and opposition vote splits.

    In the end a promise is a promise. In my opinion these members would need to do what Sheila Copps did over the GST and resign and run in a by-election if they flipped opinions on this bill.

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  40. nor is what people believe and demand always "in their best interests"

    Witness the protests in Greece against the cuts.

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  41. "those CPC members from urban Quebec City ridings were elected runing on a platform of killing the registry. "

    The Liberal party brought in the gun registry and its their policy to keep it in some form - yet in the vote on second reading - 10 Liberals voted to scrap it.

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  42. Our system may have been designed for two parties, but that was done because our system was designed for majority parliaments.

    Any electoral reform that intends to deal with the multi-party problem must have as its primary objective the production of majority governments. Otherwise you're just abandoning our entire system of government.

    Majorities aren't a consquence of our system. They're the raison d'etre.

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  43. Peter - why do you say the days of majority governments are over. If you're willing to reform the electoral system, why not reform it in such a way that it produces majority governments?

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  44. Peter - why do you say the days of majority governments are over.

    Simple, it's reality. If you can't see the way of the world I'm sorry.

    We have at present a four party system. One party has essentially a lock on 1/6 of the seats. That means the other three divide up the remaining 5/6ths. On top of that we have regional splits, west-east etc.So the possibility of any one party getting 50%+1 of the remaining seats is reasonable but that is not a House majority.

    Like much of the Western world we are entering an era of coalition or alliance govt. It's part of the evolution of politics. Get used to it.

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  45. The Bloc monopoly on those Quebec seats might last only as long as Mr. Duceppe. The bloc falls apart after that, and they know it. Particularly after some 'not a leader' style attack ads are aimed at whoever they choose as their new leader, probably from all 3 other parties.

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  46. Peter: We have at present a four party system.

    A slight correction: I counted very carefully, and there are five major parties. The party that will be fourth in the popular vote next election just happens to have no seats today. It will soon.

    This only reinforces the rest of your comment.

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  47. Gilles Duceppe wasn't exactly a star when he became leader of the party, so there's no reason to think that Pierre Paquette, who seems to be the heir apparent, will crash and burn.

    The Bloc will probably take a hit in the first election without Duceppe, as happened when Bouchard left, but, and I will emphasize it for the 50th time, a good 30% of Quebecers will always vote for the Bloc because they are sovereigntists.

    The Bloc can still have a large caucus with 30% of the vote.

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  48. This only reinforces the rest of your comment.

    Yes it does and thanks. I just looked at the current house, if the Greens do achieve Party status in the House it only makes it more difficult to achieve that majority. Not blaming the Greens at all but pointing out that the more parties the lower the possibility of majority.

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  49. Ira: Our system may have been designed for two parties, but that was done because our system was designed for majority parliaments.

    This is an interesting claim, but I'm having major difficulties in reconciling it with history.

    Our system wasn't really "designed"; it evolved, with a very significant part of that evolution occurring across the pond. For instance, in the days of Pitt the Younger party lines were ragged indeed, and "majority" was a very slippery concept. Pitt came to power when the Fox-North Coalition (What? A coalition?!) was dismissed by George III, and promptly brought Fox into his cabinet. He was often referred to as a Tory but considered himself an "independent Whig" and opposed a system based on strict party lines.

    Fast-forward to 1867 and the Dominion of Canada. Nothing in the BNA Act discusses majorities even as a concept, let alone as a desirable state of affairs. There have been many minority governments both federally and provincially since then, some supported by formal agreements, others propped up by circumstance.

    The minority frequently has dreams of ruling the majority. That doesn't make it right. It also has no basis in the Canadian historical fact.

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  50. Nick Clegg is holding out for "fundamental political reform" as the price for supporting David Cameron's Conservatives in the aftermath of the UK election. For those late to the party, he means proportional representation--something his other suitor, Gordon Brown, had previously put on the table.

    Jack Layton, are you taking notes in preparation for the fall?

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  51. Why don't polls ever show the percentage of people who say they are undecided or "none of the above"? It seems to me that this could be a critical datum in making prognostications, especially if it could be correlated with previous voting preferences, but I never see it discussed.

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  52. Our system may have been designed for two parties, but that was done because our system was designed for majority parliaments.

    No it wasn't. It was designed so one party, the Barons, could control the King. Remember Magna Carta ??

    Over time it changed and eventually parties developed. As time went on other changes occurred. Two chambers appeared, Lords And Commons. Over time again as the vote appeared Commons approached the power of Lords but only in the last couple of hundred years can one say it outranked Lords.

    Now if you want to see what electoral system change can do take the latest poll that Eric has put up, using the percentages he shows for each party figure out, based on those percents the structure of the house. There is no way that you can get majority out of that. Prop Rep would be the numbers you develop.

    I'm not aware of any system of electoral reform that using those posted percents you could ever get majority !

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  53. John, Peter i'm in agreement with your history.

    However, should it not be pointed out that first past the post has always been the voting system used ?

    We should not be so quick to throw out so many centuries of history.

    It would be a palace coup! Fundamentally change our political system. [instert random over-hyped language used during coalition crisis, prorogation crisis, or Afghan documents crisis.]


    In the end any system of electoral change should be put to the voters in a referendum.

    Its not a given that any change would win, given that these systems are complicated and poeple like to stick with what's simple and easy to understand.

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  54. --- Its not a given that any change would win, given that these systems are complicated and poeple like to stick with what's simple and easy to understand.

    If that's the case, perhaps it shouldn't be put to a vote.

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  55. Eric... if it shouldn't be put to a vote because people don't understand and like things simple.... how do we justify having a vote on anything, much less who will lead a country the size and diversity of Canada??

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  56. Indeed.

    We elect people to the House of Commons to make decisions for us, to speak for us. We don't put everything to referendums, instead we have mini-referendums in the House of Commons. We could do the same for electoral reform.

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  57. We never had a referendum to bring in FPTP - so would we need to have a referendum to change it?

    In France, they change voting systems all the time. In the early 80s the Socialists won a clear majority in the National Assembly through FPTP. Then in 1986 when it looked like FPTP might produce a rightwing majority, Mitterand immediately had a law passed switch to PR. As a result, the rightwing parties were stuck not being able to get a majority without having to deal with the Front Nationale and LePen. Then after the 1988 election when the socialists had momentum again, Mitterand changed the voting system back to FPTP and the left won a clear majority again. I like the Mitterand approach - before each election, you see where the wind is blowing and you change the electoral system to be whatever it is that helps your party!

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  58. Shady
    We should not be so quick to throw out so many centuries of history.

    Ahh ? So you mean like Parliamentary supremacy and holding the Govt to account??

    Then how do you explain the current refusal to release the Afghan documents?? You can't have it both ways.

    Parliamentary Supremacy dates back to Magna Carta where the Barons got the power to hold the King to account.

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  59. DL, Eric, the established practice in Canada is to hold a referendum.

    There's been two held in BC already. One of which nearly passed, the second rejected by a wider margin.

    Another example is changes to our constitution. No referendum is required but they are held anyways.

    Indeed we do not put everything to a referendum. Some would argue we put too few things to one.

    But electoral reform would surely be one of them.

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  60. Peter nobody has argued against parliamentary supremacy.

    The disagreement stems from a technical difference in the reading of the law by justice department lawyers and parliament's lawyer.

    Specifically whether and how parliament can pass laws that restrict its own powers.

    These state secrets laws legally bar the government from disclosing information to people outside of government. The question is whether those laws did or could affect parliamentarians.


    Put in religious terms nobody is asking:

    "Does God exist ?"

    What we are asking is:

    "Can God create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it ?"

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  61. These state secrets laws legally bar the government from disclosing information to people outside of government. The question is whether those laws did or could affect parliamentarians.


    Unless there is a specific exclusionary clause in the National Security Acts then your case is void !!

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  62. Shadow: In the end any system of electoral change should be put to the voters in a referendum.

    I can't see moving to some form of proportional representation without a referendum. I'm not certain it would pass today, but the longer current shenanigans continue, the more demand there will be.

    Éric: If [a vote might not win because people would find the concept complicated], perhaps it shouldn't be put to a vote.

    I have this eerie sense of role reversal.

    Complexity is one of the issues addressed in this blast from the past from John Cleese where he answers your questions about PR and addresses objections to it. Remember, though, not to get too caught up on the specific form he outlines.

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  63. John:

    That John Cleese bit is a scream but it does get the points across.

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  64. "I like the Mitterand approach - before each election, you see where the wind is blowing and you change the electoral system to be whatever it is that helps your party!"

    And yet if it was the rightwing party that did such a thing you would be one of the first protesting in the streets about the abuses of democracy to create partisan advantage.

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  65. Peter your statement is one legal opinion:

    "Unless there is a specific exclusionary clause in the National Security Acts then your case is void !! "

    As I said earlier there is another.

    In the end its impossible to tell which is right so its up to the appropriate people to decide.

    The ultimate authority to make that decision is the supreme court should Harper feel like refering the mater to them.

    If not the final decision will be made by a majority of parliamentarians.

    The speaker is powerless in this.

    His ruling is meaningless unless its backed up either by the courts or a majority vote in the HOC.

    Interestingly its day 11 of 14. Tommorow is day 12. Harper is still in Europe.

    By all accounts it looks like the speaker's two week deadline will come and go without a peep.

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  66. Peter your statement is one legal opinion:

    Word I have from reliable sources is there is NO exclusionary Clause.

    There may be an extension on that deadline.

    From Ralph Goodale of the Libs.
    Seems to Govt is being sticky.

    Of course no agreement and there is a motion to hold the Govt in contempt !

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  67. Peter looking at the recent polls that show Ignatieff at Dion levels of support I think we can take a motion of contempt off the table, given that its considered a confidence motion and could spark an election.

    Two weeks will come and go.

    Unclear what, if anything, will happen after that.


    This issue seems more or less dead.

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  68. No, it won't go away easily. The NDP, at the very least, will make sure of that.

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  69. "Another example is changes to our constitution. No referendum is required but they are held anyways."

    I don't remember any referendum when the constitution was repatriated in 1982.

    If we were to have a referendum on electoral reform the questions should be as follows: "Should Canada's electoral system be reformed so that each party share of seats reflects its share of the popular vote?"

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  70. Volkov,

    Agreed.

    "The simple fact is that the NDP aren't going anywhere fast. I'm sorry, but they're not going to overtake the Liberals. We don't have the same major-urban industrial culture as the UK that allowed Labour to move up ahead of the Liberals. The NDP don't even come from the same roots as Labour - most of the NDP's early support came from conservative agrarian socialists. Labour came from progressive urban workers. Big difference!

    The NDP are a forever third-party, that will only get into government if there is a coalition, or if there is a merger."

    On the other hand, what Liberals have to realize is that we cannot afford to dilute the Liberal brand (by either a merger or coalition) to have a realistic shot at forming government.

    To M or C will only alienate the political center and that, by definition, will throw them into the arms of the Conservatives.

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  71. Éric,

    "The Bloc will probably take a hit in the first election without Duceppe, as happened when Bouchard left, but, and I will emphasize it for the 50th time, a good 30% of Quebecers will always vote for the Bloc because they are sovereigntists."

    And there lies the long-term rub: soft nationalists support the Bloc. Many prefer a new constitutional arrangement with Canada rather than outright sovereignty...but everyone on this board knows we will see neither in the end.

    English Canada likes this country as it is and has no stomach for constitutional reform; Quebec feels the opposite but until now has had no real stomach for sovereignty (in spite of the dog barking-tail wagging 1995 referendum vote).

    When push comes to shove, it will be a choice between remaining in Canada as it is or opting for sovereignty. If sovereignists win, it will be perhaps thirty to fifty years from now.

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  72. Shadow,

    "Peter looking at the recent polls that show Ignatieff at Dion levels of support I think we can take a motion of contempt off the table, given that its considered a confidence motion and could spark an election.

    Two weeks will come and go.

    Unclear what, if anything, will happen after that.


    This issue seems more or less dead."

    Perhaps you should rephrase. Can Liberals really afford to back down (once again) and look at best, indecisive and at worst, lily-livered?

    I say an emphatic NO! Two days from now, we need an all-party agreement. If it isn't there by then, it never will be.

    This Prime Minister will do all he can to divide the opposition and play for time. Translation: time should be up on Tuesday followed by a motion of contempt and then a vote of non-confidence.

    Anything short of that will be an opposition "permission slip" for Canadians to return this government to office in an eventual election.

    Strike while they are off-balance and vulnerable otherwise it'll be Liberals who will be found down and out.

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  73. Ignatieff at Dion levels of support I think we can take a motion of contempt off the table,

    Yes I expect you would Shady since ALL you are interested in is electoral success, Not very obviously truth, justice etc.

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  74. Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence in Yarralumla (the Prime Ministers residence). One is from Canberra, another from Melbourne, and the third from Sydney. All three go with a government official to examine the fence.

    The Canberra contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works out some figures with a pencil. “Well”, he says, “I figure the job will run to about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me”.

    The Melbourne contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says “I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me” The Sydney contractor doesn’t measure or figure, but leans over to the government official and whispers “$2,700”. The government official, incredulous, says “You didn’t even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?’

    The Sydney contractor whispers back “$1,000 for me, $1,000 for you, and we hire the bloke from Melbourne to fix the fence”. “Done!” replies the government official.

    And that, my friends, is how the new stimulus plan works."

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  75. This issue seems more or less dead.

    Think about this Shady

    If there was an exclusionary clause in the National Security bills the Tories would be waving it like a red flag.

    They aren't, therefor there is not, therefor they are in Contempt Of Parliament !!

    Got it ??????

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  76. Peter please stop the insulting comments.

    Despite your unacceptable words, i'm in fact very much interested in truth and justice, as are most Conservatives.

    So is the Prime Minister. He's been looking at setting up a system of intelligence sharing since coming to power, although officials are waiting for recomendations from the Major report before proceeding.

    That process is not going to be intterupted or sped up because some opposition members complained to the speaker.

    Two weeks will come and go. The speaker's ruling will be set aside.

    And at some point in the future the opposition will get its way. Just not this instant.

    It'll be interesting to see if they can act like grown ups and patiently accept that Harper is firmly in charge and this will unfold on his timeline.

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  77. John:

    Here is a particular cause that I think the Green Party should be out in front of:

    http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/people+marches+fight+fish+farms/3004889/story.html

    It is NOW. It is relevant to our lives NOW and it is something that could be changed.

    IMO the best way for the Green Party to gain electoral prominence is to champion these real life, in the present, causes and to push for changes much like the NDP once did with pensions and healthcare. It gets people elected and it gives visibility. Most of all it is relevant to Canadians.

    Just a thought, Earl.

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  78. Peter when you make accusations like you with your Canberra joke you cheapen yourself. You are smart enough to know that isn't true in Canada or Australia. Indeed the last time we saw something like this in Canada was with the Sponsorship scandal. Peter you have a lot of good ideas. When you blindly make accusations without a shred of evidence it casts a pall on all of your ideas.

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  79. Earl;

    It's a joke fer gods sake.

    And it does happen and if you will note I accused NOBODY with it !

    Came from a friend in Australia and apparently Eric felt it was worth putting up!!
    'Sheesh !!

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  80. The speaker's ruling will be set aside.

    Dream on

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  81. Peter:

    "This issue seems more or less dead.

    Think about this Shady

    If there was an exclusionary clause in the National Security bills the Tories would be waving it like a red flag.

    They aren't, therefor there is not, therefor they are in Contempt Of Parliament !!

    Got it ??????"

    If there isn't an exclusionary clause in the documents there will be going forth. I also expect that the next majority government, Liberal or Conservative will amend the relevant legislation so that a minority government is never again put in this position.

    Interesting as well that it is only in minority Parliaments where Parliament is anything more than theoretically supreme. In a majority government the original request for the documents would have been voted down. In majority Parliaments the PM rules with more power than an American President.

    Obviously no government ever contemplated that Parliament would demand to see secret defence documents. That I am certain will be remedied soon.

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  82. "And that, my friends, is how the new stimulus plan works."

    My apologies Peter, I thought you were referring to our stimulus and our government. You caught me right off guard. I liked the joke. Again my apologies.

    Regards,

    Earl

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  83. patiently accept that Harper is firmly in charge and this will unfold on his timeline.

    So we, the people, should just sit back and wait till the Dictator speaks??

    I don't know what your definition of the peoples rights are but I'm damned sure your idea isn't one of them.

    So the complaint about "truth and justice" was really a smokescreen for unlimited arrogance and power for Harper. At last you've finally said what many of us have felt. That Harper is the "King' and we can't challenge the King !!

    Hate to tell you this but the last King that tried that lost his head!!

    We, the people, through our elected representatives have rights and like it or not they are being exercised !!

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  84. On the subject of why the Quebec City area delivers Conservative member, despite the fact that it is a predominantly Francophone area:

    1) It has been typically mixed between federalism and the sovereignists, and its post-war parliament seats typically delivered Liberal and "Conservative" Creditist seats.

    2) Provincially it tends to deliver seats that are opposite to Montreal, as such the ADQ due well there.

    3) From their point of view, knowing full well that Quebec will deliver limited Conservative seats, they recognize that by electing Conservatives they will get cabinet ministers, and of course preferential infrastructure and federal dollars. By having 4 members, out of 11 CPC members in Quebec gives Quebec City and area a larger influence in the government verses the Montreal region.

    So the long gun registry is irrelevant to the greater fiscal concerns that Quebec City can gain with sitting government member.

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  85. Earl calm down a bit, Peter was clearly joking.

    You shouldn't be so hard on other board members, it comes across as judgemental.

    I'm an Australian citizen (dual) and I found it worth a chuckle, although everybody i've ever met in Sydney are honest people. I think its just playing off the famous rivalry between the two biggest cities.

    Besides i'm sure Peter knows that current Australian PM is Kevin Rudd who comes from his side of the ideological spectrum.

    Anyone who wants to take a poke at the Rudd gov't go ahead. I'm still annoyed at their announced job killing 40% mining tax from a few days ago.

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  86. Earl:
    That I am certain will be remedied soon.

    But not in this parliament and in none in the future if the polls are to be believed.

    No majority for any party !

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  87. Peter like it or not Harper is the PM and he is in the driver's seat.

    If this is so important to you that it be done right this instant then i'd suggest voicing your support for an election and a coalition to replace him.

    Otherwise this unfolds on Harper's timeline. The two weeks deadline set by the speaker has been set aside.

    Who knows, maybe they can speed up the bureaucrats and lawyers and have a proposal ready by the fall.

    I see Ignatieff has just been made a privy councillor. That's the first step in any of this. Patience please!

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  88. Earl: Here is a particular cause that I think the Green Party should be out in front of: [fish farms]

    That's an interesting suggestion. The Green Platform currently doesn't explicitly mention open-water fish farming as an issue.

    I personally don't have a deep understanding of this subject. Fish farms aren't a hot topic in Ontario.

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  89. Hi Earl,

    You are certainly never hard on any other posters. You are always very polite and respectful.

    And you are certainly not judgemental.

    We all miss the odd one, that's life.

    Cheers

    49

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  90. 49 steps you're clearly responding to my comment in your comment to Earl, please address me if you an issue with my words otherwise its sounds very passive agressive.

    Let's keep it polite around here!

    Anyways its day 13 of 14.

    Any word from your leader on what's going to happen ? Last I heard from him he was thanking the Prime Minister for the generous gesture of making him a privy councillor.

    What do you think of Harper's kind actions towards Mr. Ignatieff ?

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  91. Ronald O'Dowd: Why do you say "English Canada" when you actually mean "Ontario"?

    "English Canada likes this country as it is and has no stomach for constitutional reform"

    I think much of the west would be all ofr constitutional reform, but they'd want reforms very different from those Québec would want (some of them, at least). This is yet another reason why it doesn't make any sense for Canada to have a strong central government, and realistically only Ontarians really want Canada to have a strong central government.

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  92. Ira,

    I'm impressed with the different comments that I've read from you in recent weeks. I especially like the frank assessment that you present of the Harper government.

    Now to address your point: I don't know Ira -- no question Alberta is decentralist (as is yours truly). What about the rest of the West. Are they as rabid? (No offense intended.)

    To my mind, Ontario is clearly centralist. I would also add the Maritimes to that mix.

    My guess would be that most of the other provinces and territories fall somewhere in the middle. What do you think of that? Thanks.

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  93. No question the east coast wants a strong federal presence. With Quebec separating them from the rest of Canada they have a real fear of being split off as well should Quebec ever leave.

    Ontario is a mix and match. I suspect the GTA and suburbs like to have a strong federal presence but many smaller communities want the higher levels of government to be as weak as possible it seems (lack of trust). The last few federal governments have contributed to this strongly (first with the massive Liberal health care cuts, then the current mess Harper is creating).

    What is funny is many local councils and mayors have jobs for life because few care, yet many trust them more than they trust the feds or province. Go figure.

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