Friday, February 27, 2015

Close race also seen by Ipsos Reid

The polls have spoken. The Ipsos Reid survey published Wednesday afternoon by Global News put the gap between the Liberals and Conservatives at just one point, exactly the same margin as recorded by Abacus Data and EKOS Research. Even the support levels are very uniform: 32% to 35% for the Tories and 32% to 34% for the Liberals. For all intents and purposes, the national landscape is now a tie.

Ipsos was last in the field between Jan. 6 and 11. Since that poll, the Liberals picked up three points to move into the lead with 34%, while the Conservatives were down two points to 32%.

The New Democrats slipped one point to 23%, the Bloc Québécois was steady at 6%, and support for other parties (including the Greens, which Ipsos does not prompt for) was down one point to 3%.

Total undecideds numbered 13%, down four points.

None of these shifts were outside the margin of error of similarly sized probabilistic samples.

Ipsos's last poll was hinting at a Conservative surge. No other survey at the time was suggesting quite the same thing, so it appears that it was just the product of normal sampling error and this new poll is a reversion to the mean. Apart from the sharp decline in Liberal fortunes since the fall, there is no discernible trend in Ipsos's numbers over the last few months.

Indeed, the 'surge' may have been the product of an unusual result among women. That January poll put the Conservatives ahead among this demographic, something that no other poll was showing at the time or has shown since. But this new poll shows a reset of those numbers, with the Conservatives and Liberals swapping six points. The Liberals now lead again among women and the Conservatives among men, putting Ipsos back in agreement with every other poll.

Oddly, Ipsos showed a big uptick in support among the youngest Canadians for the Conservatives, putting them up seven points to 29%, just five points behind the Liberals and one point ahead of the NDP (which was down eight points). This might seem like a counter-intuitive result, but in fact the recent Abacus and EKOS polls have also shown improving numbers for the Tories among young voters. Why this might be, however, is beyond me, as is whether this is a real trend or an anomalous blip.

The regional results are fairly typical, with some small variations.

The Conservatives led in British Columbia with 39%, putting them ahead of the Liberals, who were at 34%. The six most recent polls had put the Liberals ahead, so this is a bit of a reversal. But that other polls were in such agreement in B.C. was, itself, unusual. Ipsos has recorded a drop in NDP support in the province, to 21%, as others have.

The Conservatives led in Alberta and the Prairies with 54% and 45%, respectively, but Ipsos puts the NDP in much better form in the Prairies than other polls at 27%, one point up on the Liberals.

The Liberals and Conservatives were in a tie in Ontario at 37%, which is almost identical to the current polling aggregate. The NDP at 23%, however, is a much better result than the party has seen in most polls in some time.

And Atlantic Canada is the usual, with the Liberals way ahead of the NDP and Tories with 47% to 26% and 24%, respectively.

But what about Quebec? It has been the wildcard in federal polling lately, and this survey is no exception.

As most other polls have it, the Liberals were ahead with 31% to 27% for the NDP. This represented a sizable, but just inside the margin of error, increase for the Liberals. The Bloc Québécois was in third with 26%, while the Conservatives were well behind at 15%.

We've discussed the standing of the Conservatives in Quebec quite a bit, and this Ipsos poll would seem to argue in favour of their gains having been wildly over-stated. I think there is something to that. But if we look at the trends from each of the pollsters that have been active so far in 2015, there is a pattern that emerges. Virtually all of them have had the Conservatives gaining in January and early February, compared to where they were in December. But now the polls seem to be showing those gains tailing back or plateauing. Ipsos is well in line with that, with a three point drop.

The debate, then, is more about the size of the gain and the amount of support the Conservatives really have. The trends seem clear enough, however.

Another notable result here is the 26% for the Bloc Québécois. Coupled with the EKOS poll that put the party in second place with 23% last week, some were saying that the new Quebec narrative should be about the Bloc's rebound. I think that is premature.

This Bloc result is the best the party has had in any poll in a year. But that it comes from Ipsos is significant. The Bloc is only up one point from Ipsos's early January poll, so the number is far from unusual.

In fact, Ipsos has tended to have better results for the Bloc than other pollsters lately. Polls conducted within a week of this most recent survey have averaged 18% for the Bloc, compared to the 26% here. In January, polls taken within a week of Ipsos's 25% result averaged 17%, while polls taken within a week of Ipsos's November poll, which put the Bloc at 21%, averaged 15%. The Bloc had 20% in the Ipsos poll from September, while other polls at the time were averaging 14%.

So, it would appear in this case that we should not get ahead of ourselves in predicting a comeback for the Bloc. As far as Ipsos is concerned, the party is in a better position now than it was in the summer and fall, but is otherwise holding steady. This is the consensus among most other polls as well. Quebec is a confusing place for federal polls, so let's focus on points of agreement when they exist.


  1. With these numbers, my model gives:

    136 CPC
    111 LPC
    74 NDP
    15 BQ
    2 GPC

    By region, it gives:

    21 LPC
    6 CPC
    5 NDP

    32 NDP
    25 LPC
    15 BQ
    6 CPC

    55 CPC
    45 LPC
    21 NDP

    16 CPC
    6 LPC
    6 NDP

    29 CPC
    4 LPC
    1 NDP

    British Columbia
    24 CPC
    8 LPC
    8 NDP
    2 GPC

    2 LPC
    1 NDP

    As Eric pointed out, this poll is very "par for the course" for the moment. Only Québec is standing out, with the BQ regaining official party status. While this 26% seems like an oddity, we have to look at the BQ's trend as exposed by Eric in his presentation of the BQ's numbers since September, which is up. From 20% to 26% for Ipsos and from 14% to 18% for all other pollsters. Is it the beginning of the BQ's comeback where they will play to the NDP the same trick the NDP played on them at the last election or will it be too little too late for them? That also seems like an interesting question, especially since the BQ becomes competitive around 21%, which is possible for October by looking at their current trend.

  2. The BIG question to me is ?? Political policy or best for the people??

    Because they are distinctly different !!

  3. Eric, what percentage of the vote would the BQ need to get in Québec in order for it to start winning quite a few seats again?

    So far this year the model has projected only about 3-4 seats for the BQ.

  4. The Newest Ekos poll done by IVR is very similar to Ipsos nationally but they have the NDP with a 5 point lead over the Liberals in Quebec and the CPC and BQ further back. At 18% the BQ would likely get 0 seats

    1. In my model, they need about 23% to go back to official party status. Obviously, that depends mostly on the strength of the NDP but of the LPC as well. 23% is when I project them winning the seats, but under that, until around 21%, they are losing many seats by a very small margin and could also put them in a good position.

    2. Sorry, that was meant as an answer to Craig just one post over...

  5. Political parties as well as constantly vying for power also have both political programs and philosophies.

    Now the question is always what is best for the public not necessarily what is best for the party. Because a long experience says that best for the public is rarely the same as what is best for the party.

    I think more and more of the public is understanding that they need to split their votes so that no one party has that majority to rule.

    1. Peter,

      How can one split their vote in our system?

    2. Really simple Capilano

      Husband votes for one party, wife votes for another!!

    3. So you cancel the other's vote, that is significantly different than splitting. In the end both people would have got as much usefulness from not voting at all.

    4. You just don't get it. The whole idea is to do what is necessary to prevent majority Govt and thus protect the public !!

    5. A husband and wife presumably living in the same riding would just negate each other's vote.

    6. I share Peters aversion to majority governments, as I am not a huge fan and much prefer the consensus aspect of minorities. Generally I think the will of the electorate is more satisfied by having the parties come together to accomplish things in parliament. Though the instability, gamesmanship, self interest of parties, and elections every 1 and 1/2 - 2 years is the least minority feels less like an elected dictatorship that is then majority.

    7. "Protect the public"? From what, expressing their democratic right?

    8. Many people prefer majority governments because then someone is truly in charge. The government is much more likely ot live within their means and think for the longer term because they cannot just blame the coalition partner and because they do not need to worry about an imminant election.

    9. No because by voting for a minority they are expressing their "democratic right" whereas voting for a majority terminates that right until the next election.

    10. Walter ALL democracy disappears when a party has majority !! Look at the current CPC activity over Bill C51 !!

    11. Majority governments are better governments. The world over, history shows us that majority governments tend to be smaller than minority governments.

      So I favour majority governments. In fact, I think a majority for any of the big three parties right now would produce a better government than an unstable minority would (just look at the terrible job the minority CPC did in 2009).

    12. The instant a party achieves a majority all your "democratic rights" disappear. You have no further ability to modify or redirect the govts actions or direction until the next election.

      And we have had minority govts which were very successful !! Just because the CPC couldn't do it doesn't mean they are bad !!

    13. I find it funny how people are claiming majorities are good for fiscal and the like. Trudeau #1 shot us into deficit under his final majority, Mulrooney shot it deeper down. During Harper's years the surpluses were all during minority years but his last minority set record for deficits as he blamed the opposition then he kept those deficits going as a majority up until the very last minute. WIth a a majority gov't just has to worry about making the people happy in year 4.

    14. I think more depends on the type of party in power and, probably more importantly, larger economic trends that the government has little control over.

    15. True enough that larger economic trends have the most influence but there is no evidence that I can see outside of what Harper supporters claim regarding the 2008-2010 time period as far as majorities being better fiscal managers than minorities.

    16. But there really hasn't been major economic trends with the exception of oil price for decades really. There really is a difference between majority and minority govt and looking for events or trends outside the majority that effects it is pretty hopeless IMO.

    17. Ira says "Majority governments are better governments."

      I call BS on this. Switzerland has not had a "majority" government since 1848 and I'd argue they are among the best governed countries in the world.

    18. One study rated Denmark, Belgium and Sweden as the "best" democracies. All have a tradition of "minority" governments.

    19. Compare, in the aggregate, the performance of majorities to that of minorities in the same countries. In general, a country with a majority government has a smaller less expensive government than that same country does with a minority government.

      Don't just look at Canada. Look at the UK and Australia and New Zealand. Look at the explosion in the size of the US government when they started electing Senators directly (a whole new class of officials who needed to justify their existence by spending money).

      Unfettered democracy is bad for our pocketbooks.

      If democracy doesn't provide us with better government, why should we be concerned about losing it intermittently?

    20. Look at Canadian provinces as well. The PCs under John Hamm in Nova Scotia essentially eliminated the deficit, that work was more or less undone through 2 minority governments and a NDP majority.

    21. See what happens caveat when you try to criticize the "right wing nuts" ??

    22. The US standardized senator elections in 1913, but over half were directly elected before that. Your government size corallates with WWI and the Great Depression, not with increased democracy.

  6. True enough Eric but just possibly they can influence other voters to prevent a majority. The whole point is to make the Govt actually do what is best for the public rather than what a political party wants !

    1. If they want to prevent a majority, they should work together to vote for the most electable candidate in their riding who doesn't belong to the winning party.

  7. Democracy doesn't disappear when a party has a majority; votes still take place, questions still get asked. Minority parliaments are no more likely than any other to express what the people want. Most Canadians don't want an election every 18 months but, that is what we get with minority governments. Or What about Layton trading budget votes for policy, why should a party that garnered >20% of the vote determine government policy and spending priorities?

    1. Why not? Shouldn't a party that gets 1/5th of the vote get to determine up to 1/5th of the budget? I'm sure if we get the Libs with a near majority and they need Green support to be in power that some will go nuts about a party with around 10% getting any influence. But many don't complain when a party with under 40% of the vote gets 100% of the power (see Harper, Chretien).

    2. John our system does not work that way. If the NDP wanted to influence the budget they should have joined the Government. They decided to remain separate and gave up any potential influence.

      We also don't elect parties but M.P.s so the popular vote per party is not relevant. Also a PM does not have 100% of the power caucus, the Senate, bureaucracy, the Courts, Crown all hold influence in our system.

    3. While popular vote doesn't decide anything in our insane system, it does help for legitimacy. If a party comes 2nd in popular vote but wins the most seats they'll be a bit more careful than a party that wins both as they will want to be re-elected. The number of seats determines everything including how much power a party has - so if the NDP has the balance of power between the Cons & LIbs then they get to dictate a lot of stuff - far more than popular vote would dictate. The Bloc has messed things up a lot for a long time (being politically toxic to make deals with - see Stephane Dion) but now the Greens might shift into that slot - being the tiebreaker.

      As to power - given the PM appoints senators & the supreme court the PM gets if not 100% of the power darn close to it. Rarely does the senate go against the PM if the PM is who appointed most of them. This PM has somehow ended up with a supreme court that disagrees with him regularly despite his appointing most of them. Same for bureaucracy - I've noticed a lot of comments on other sites where govt employees are spouting the govt line in comment sections. Hopefully not on govt time.

    4. John,

      In our system if the NDP holds the balance of power they get to dictate nothing. They may try to work with the Government or Opposition to pass legislation but on their own they are simply an opposition party without the right to govern.

      Once senators and judges are appointed they are not beholden to their appointer, their terms guarantee a large degree of independence. I think many people over-estimate the PM or a premier's power. Also the caucus should have the backbone to disagree with their leader. If Mackenzie KIng hadn't ruined the party system by introducing delegated conventions, you woukld likely be much happier with leader accountability and the dispersion of power.

    5. Not the way a parliment works - if there is a minority situation then the #1 and #2 parties normally try to get the #3 and/or #4 parties to work with them to pass legislation or to move into power. the PM rules at the will of parliament. That doesn't mean the party with the most seats no matter what Mr. Harper wants people to believe.

      That gives the #3 party a lot of power when there are just 3 parties. This upcomign election could easily see a situation where one of the Liberals or Conservatives could be very close to a majority and could negotiate with the Greens and/or NDP for power while the other tries to get both Green & NDP & maybe Bloc to agree to let them govern.

      In Ontario we've seen the #2 party take over in 1985 (the PC's had the most seats but the Libs & NDP made an agreement to allow the Libs to govern as long as they passed some stuff the NDP wanted).

    6. John,

      Your conception of how Parliament works is idealistic.The number 3,4,5,6... parties have no right to govern unless they are invited to join a Government. I worked through two minority Parliaments in Nova Scotia and both were more confrontational and partisan than previous or succeeding majority Governments. On the face of it I understand why it appears that the third and fourth party hold a lot of power but, the reality is quite different. The third and fourth party are fighting for donations and media coverage and this still greatly favours the Government and Official Opposition. Consequently, it is the third and fourth parties who are most adverse to an early election since, they have the least money and resources to fight one. Third and fourth parties are also very hesitant and skeptical to get into bed with larger parties for a whole host of reasons you can probably hypothesize. Suffice it to say it is the Government that gets credit not the third party in the eyes of the public for any policy or legislative success.

      As for 1985 Ontario that situation is unique and much debate still exists as to whether the LG, John Aird Black, made the correct decision. Strong arguments abound that he should have called a new election.

      Finally, legally the Government can not work with minor parties on certain initiatives unless they are part of Government. The Throne Speech and budget must be approved by the Crown before they go to the House, obviously certain confidences are involved which would be inappropriate to disclose to a party not in Government and so minor parties' influence is restricted to the amending process not the drafting process.

  8. Peter Meldrum wrote:

    "No because by voting for a minority they are expressing their "democratic right" whereas voting for a majority terminates that right until the next election".

    Canadians don't vote between elections so, the statement above makes little sense.

  9. You really don't get it do you ???

    Here we have a majority Govt overriding the wishes of the people and the experts and driving a Major Bill through the House. C 51 is a disaster as many ex-judges and other legal experts have said. Does the majority Govt care ?? NO !!!

    So your democratic rights have disappeared. Get used to being totally irrelevant !!

    1. It is pure speculation to state:" we have a Gov't. overriding the wishes of the people and the experts". Relying on experts is not democracy but a form of elitism.

      Secondly, former jurists commenting on legislation that is before Parliament and may land before the Courts is inappropriate and unprofessional. Judges should interpret legislation not influence its passage.

      The problem Peter: You are using "democracy" as an argument to overturn the results of the last election-that is not democracy but a perversion of democracy. You lost get over it. We elect Parliaments for 5 years and have a constitution with an amending formula, if you don't like the system get off your duff and try and change it-you'll need majority votes 10 legislative assemblies plus the Senate and House of Commons.

    2. I would personally prefer bill C-51 to have provisions for civilian oversight and closer checks on our intelligence agencies.

      That being said, the vast majority of Canadians like the proposed legislation as is.

      Peter is conflating "the will of the people" and the "will" of Peter Meldrum. I'm quite sure that if it was a majority government passing legislation Peter liked he would have no qualms in supporting it.

      Let's test that. In 2005 the majority of Canadians opposed same sex marriage rights. Are you saying Peter that this should not have been passed, as it actually did go against "the will of the people"? I doubt that.

      I'm with Ira in that I think that pure democracy does not always (or even often) lead to the best results for policy decisions, good governance, and minority rights.

      It makes sense that we elect our leaders to lead the people, not to govern by opinion poll. That is what the Liberals did in 2005 on SSM. Majority governments allow this to happen with a minimum of political considerations. I'm hoping for another one come October.

    3. You are mis-remembering polling on same-sex marriage. A quick glance through Ipsos's archives show a majority were supportive of it.

    4. You have a link for that? It couldn't have been a very large majority since a quick google found this

      That's from Environics two days before the vote, and the 52% "disagree" with the Bill is an eight point gap over "agree", well outside the MOE.

    5. Support - 54%, Oppose - 44% (June 2003)

      Support - 49%, Oppose 49% (August 2003)

      Support - 47%, Oppose 44% (September 2003)

      Support - 47%, Oppose 48% (February 2004)

      Support - 54%, Oppose 43% (October 2004)

    6. Here is a good graphic illustrating the trends. From this extremely well done article.

      It's a mixed bag to be sure, and the Supreme Court decision had more to do with it than I remembered, but I'm going to still give the Liberals credit for leading the people in the right direction. Look at the trend line since.

  10. "We elect Parliaments for 5 years and have a constitution with an amending formula,"

    Congratulations, you finally got it !! So for 5 years, in the event of a majority Govt, the people have NO influence!! Great way to have a country, NOT !!

    1. The people do have influence through their M.P.s not to mention Governments want to get re-elected so they generally want to keep the electorate friendly. You are simply overly negative and confrontational and refuse to accept the results of democratic votes. It is a sad commentary on your train of thought.

    2. It's a representative democracy. You elect people to represent your interests. If they don't do it the way you want, you choose different people next time.

      What is your obsession with democracy as some sort of constant driver of policy? Do you really want the government to do only what the majority wants them to do all of the time? That would be awful - people are dumb. And more importantly, they're never going to understand the details necessary to make good decisions.

      That's why we have specialization of labour. We pick someone to handle something so the rest of us can spend our energy doing something we're actually good at.

    3. That is simply not true. The people have lots of influence through their M.P.s, the media, protest movements etc...

      You simply want to overturn the results of the last election and use a perverse version of democracy to justify your view. Democracy is not simply about voting or campaigning it is equally important to accept results or viewpoints you don't agree with.

    4. Peter,

      Unless you wish to do away with Parliment completely, we live in a representative democracy. That means if you don't like what the government has recently done, you may vote for another party in 4-5 years. I don't like Bill C51, nor will I be voting Conservative. Equally, there still is much ill will over the Liberals and the NEB, so that is what they prefer. What influence do voters have during a minority government?

    5. Unfettered democracy is a great way to have the majority oppress the minority. That's not okay.

      We need laws that protect individuals, and then some way to prevent the majority from changing them.

    6. Well done Ira, you've finally got the real point !!

  11. But in our parliamentary system a "majority" government can be as low as 37%, or less theoretically. What's so wrong with alternative ideas? Are we so blind to not see faults in our tradition?

    "The assumption that what currently exists must necessarily exist is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking"
    -Murray Bookchin

    1. Nothing's wrong with alternative ideas. But if they don't produce better results, they're not better.

      I don't see that 37% threshold as a problem (Alberta once elected a majority government with 29% of the vote).

    2. From Canadian Federal election results, the lowest voted majority was the first in 1867 with 34.53% of the vote, but 55.56% of the seats. If you exclude that one, the next lowest was 38.46% for the Liberals in 1997 with 58.80% of seats.

      In general, our majority governments win 135% the number of seats as compared to their national vote share.

      We aren't blind to the faults of our system, but the issue is that each party prefers a new system under which they find advantage. For legitimacy, it would require a referendum, and then regional differences would appear. For example, Quebec would not like a system with that adjusts according to national results, as they have several Quebec-only parties. As such, democracies tend to work with the flaws of whatever system they initially set-up.

      However, if you move to a system, say a single preferential ballot, how do you total support?

    3. We see the reult of other systems all the time and they do not work as well. Italy has had 60+ governments in 69 years and today find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy. Belgium is in a constant state of falling apart after every election and Russia is not a "democracy I would like Canada to emulate. France is well known for its domestic strife and governmental dysfunction.

    4. There are always counter example to point out, but its a matter of selecting the best system for Canada-style of government. STV have been used to good effect in Austrilia, Ireland, and Scotland.

      Italy is more an example of corrupt government rather than the drawbacks of coalitions. Look at Germany for the counter example. Belgium is a hodgepodge of divergent groups. It can be argued that they would be better served allowing Flemish succession. The difference compared to Quebec is that the minority there is 41% of the population, whereas Quebec is 24%.

  12. Eric

    Interesting piece you put on CBC re leaders approvals. Thanks.

  13. Fundamentally, this discussion - superficially about the relative merits of minority and majority governments - is really about democracy and its (unspecified) alternatives. The folks here who are arguing for greater democracy are talking about a deeper democracy than the formal and mainly nominal democracy of our official political institutions. They are arguing from the premise that governance should proceed from the people (all the people) and should not only represent but implement the desires of the people, and not merely of a small elite. The folks on the other side of this argument are either satisfied or outright prefer some sort of elite to make decisions for everyone else, or more pointedly (and realistically) to make decisions regardless of everyone else, who simply have to live with the consequences. Justifications are raised for this latter point of view: that most of us aren’t bright enough to know what’s good for us, that certain experts or more determined individuals have a prior right to rule, or that it’s just natural law to have a minority rule the majority. Every ruling elite has provided these and other justifications for their power, and when examined, they don’t withstand the burden of proof.

    Ira asks : “What is your obsession with democracy as some sort of constant driver of policy?” I think that question and its significance should just be allowed to sink in. But let me ask Ira, and anyone else with a similarly dismissive attitude towards democracy, where do you think everything you have came from? If it weren’t for generations of people trying to make democracy the driver of policy you’d undoubtedly be an indentured labourer with no hope of exercising any control over your life, at the mercy of your boss, of your health, of impoverished education, of institutions like the police or the army or the banks or corporations who could intervene in your life as they saw fit. That’s how life was for most Canadians – and not five hundred years ago, but just over a century ago. Do you think the lifestyle you enjoy now was a gift from company owners and members of Parliament? Were they simply so charitable, so philanthropic or maybe so visionary that they cut into their own profits and power to provide for the majority who are too “dumb” (as Ira put it) to make good decisions? And be honest, do you count yourself as one of the dumb herd? No, probably not. You must be one of the Deciders – or maybe a Decider-in-waiting until your genius gets recognised for what it is and some member of the Elect raises you up to the Pantheon?

    1. Thanks Chim. Point I've been trying to make without your skills. Appreciated

    2. The discussion is reaching to the very foundations of communal living. Generally speaking, we wish to balance our risks to result in a system with the minimum level of tyranny, whether this be a minority oppressing a majority or vice versa. As such, a complex system of checks and balances gives the best results. It's quite possible that a majority or plurality of people do not wish to pay any taxes, especially if the pro-tax vote splits along where the price point should be. We do not follow this Libertarian view, because that way lies anarchy or at best an oligarchy. As such, our system of government not only needs to protect the minority from the majority and the majority from the minority, the majority needs to be protected from itself.

      There are many ways we could increase the democratic participation in our governing system, from referendums to changing representative election methods. The issues with each of these are cost, equality, and speed.

      Personally, my ideal system would be mixed between direct and representative democracy, in a ratio of 3:1 in favour of the current system (whatever the voting method). This would roughly match vote shares with seat shares and ensure highly unpopular legislation does not pass. For example, if the current 308 seats represented 75% of the total, the Conservatives would hold 40.4% of the seats and would thereby need to carry a minimum of 38.4% of the direct democracy vote to pass a given bill. Historically, this system would have had four majority governments that could theoretically ignore the public will (Liberals in 1940 and 1949, Conservatives in 1958 and 1984). However, I would say such governments reflect the will of the people.

    3. I totally reject the suggestion of a "deeper democracy". Democracy is not a quest for metaphysical certainty it is a decision making process-its usefulness comes about through the process being finite.

      Since all the people are rarely in agreement having in a political system if governance was determined by "all the people"-nothing would ever get decided as those opposed would produce endless vetoes. based on whims.

      Secondly, democracy did very little to free endentured labour. The Black Death in Europe and consequently a shortage of labour and rising wages had a far greater impact freeing indentured serfs and labour.

      Thirdly, democracy can only be a driver of policy so long as it is a consultative mechanism and once again this is only as a decision making process; People are drivers of policy not consultative constructs.

    4. You've presented a false dichotomy, that either I should support democracy 100% or reject its fruits altogether.

      But that's nonsense. There is some optimal level of democracy, and it's quite high, but it's not 100%. So pushing always to increase the amount of democracy without examining whether we've reached the optimal level seems foolish to me.

      The people are not well equipped to make decisions requiring expert knowledge. The best outcome from democracy on science policy, for example, is for the people to defer to experts (which Canadians mostly seem to want to do). But what if they didn't? Then we get the majority making bad decisions.

      Similarly, unfettered democracy generally leads to the tyranny of the majority. You talk about "the people" as if their some monolithic entity, or even a homogeneous group. But they're not. They're not even a group at all. They're just a collection of disparate individuals, and those individuals have honest disagreements. Why should the more popular opinions always hold sway?

    5. Neither of which Ira explains the significant differences between us and the Scandinavian countries !! They are significantly better than us on a number of planes !!

    6. Sweden is really the only fair comparison. But I'll agree we should be looking at them. I think it was 2013 when the Fraser Institute published a study showing how much more effective their healthcare system is than ours.

    7. Capilano, I’m not sure what you read into my phrase “deeper democracy”, what I meant, simply, was meaningful democracy, not merely the semblance of democracy. In other words, a political culture in which all people genuinely share in the decision-making for society. There are a number of proposed systems and methods of achieving this, and some have even been implemented – at least on a small or short-term scale – though other forces have tended to intervene and undermine or destroy such experiments. But basic morality and empathy ought to impel us all to strive toward making such experiments a functional reality. Your notion of a consultative mechanism is far too limited to be worthy of the term, “democracy”.
      Forms of indentured labour have persisted to the present day in parts of Europe and North America (never mind the rest of the world). You may have heard the song “Sixteen Tons”, which includes the lines, “I owe my soul to the company store”… That was life as a Kentucky coal miner in the 1930s, for instance. A more recent example is that of many migrant agricultural workers here in Canada and the US whose work simply goes to pay off their “debt” to their employers – an ongoing injustice.

      Ira, I’ve read a lot of political philosophy and the only people who accept and approve of something like an “optimal level of democracy” have no sympathy with the notion of democracy anyway. “One hundred percent democracy” is exactly what we should all be working towards, anything less is one kind or another of tyranny. Authority may be justified, but the burden of proof is on the advocates/holders of authority, and it’s a very heavy burden. Take your assertion that “people are not well equipped to make decisions requiring expert knowledge” – for some unstated reason, you presume that the decision-making should rest with the experts, when, in fact, if people simply have access to expertise, there’s no reason they can’t make decisions accordingly. For example, I’m in no way prepared to conduct a medical intervention on myself, but once a doctor has explained the options, I can make a fair and informed decision as to medical care. Note that – in Canada, if not the USA – that expertise is provided without much distortion of commercial or other non-medical interests. The same situation could apply in the political-economic sphere, given the necessary changes to democratisation.
      Your view of democracy, which you project on to me, is monolithic and crude. I don’t believe in a tyranny of the majority, or even of majority decision making. I don’t believe “the people” are a homogeneous group – these are terms you’ve imposed on me. In fact, it’s precisely that I see society as a collective of individuals that I so strongly advocate for a meaningful democracy. That’s the essence of the libertarian-socialist approach that I see as necessary. So, far from supporting the idea that “more popular opinions should hold sway”, I support the much more meaningful and fundamental idea that all people should participate in the decision-making and control of society. As I said earlier, there are a number of ways this could be achieved, and this would undoubtedly only happen through a process of reflection, experimentation and trial and error – in fact, that’s exactly how it is happening in various places right now.

    8. @Chimurenga,
      Please define, at least loosely, what 100% democracy means. For example, does it mean that the English majority in Canada could impose itself in Quebec? Does it mean the Christian majority can impose itself as the national religion? I'm for a more participartory style of representative democracy, but 100% of anything is generally not the optimal solution.

    9. I didn't bring up the term "100% democracy", that was Ira. But a meaningful democracy (my term) wouldn't entail majorities imposing anything on minorities. In fact, that's the opposite of a democracy. It's hard to get too specific, because the kind of democracy I’m referring to depends on the specific circumstances of its origins, but one can imagine a number of possibilities. I should say, I'm talking about a political culture that is a long way off for Canada nationally, though it already exists to some degree in small, localised forms here and elsewhere. One example, pertinent because it's in an industrialised, first world state, is the Mondragon federation in Spain. These are worker-controlled cooperatives that, incidentally, are among the few thriving economic entities in Spain right now. The workers control the industries that they’re a part of, and cooperate regionally (and from industry to industry) on common interests and goals. It’s an economic system, but one that recognises that politics and work are deeply interrelated. One can easily extrapolate from it to other types of institutions, etc. and imagine a similar set of relationships on a national and general level.

    10. Being among the best corporations in Spain is equal to being the driest person on the Titanic. 19% of Mondragon employees work overseas and only 29% of gross revenue is generated inside Spain. Their oldest subsidiary declared bankruptcy in 2013 and removed 7% of their total workforce. Those factors alone would imply that the economic model would not map well onto a national landscape, but they do have some good ideas. For example, limiting the ratio of pay for highest to lowest paid jobs, not at a pegged rate, but varying by company and industry (between 3:1 and 9:1). As for their governing principles, I would say the only item not expressed in our parliamentary system is the subordinate nature of capital.

    11. But many Mondragon operations are thriving, not merely the best of a bad lot. And of course they are subject to the limitations of the national economy. I can't see how the figures you cite are more indicting of Mondragon's cooperative model than the figures that could be found for any number of "traditional" corporations that are far more indicting of what we call capitalism. Consider the fact that since the beginning of the 1990s most CEOs get the bulk of their pay in stock options whose value increases most readily when labour costs are reduced - so, fire a bunch of employees and the CEO's pay jumps up, regardless of the repercussions for the business. That's how Chainsaw Al Dunlap got nosebleedingly rich while leaving a trail of wrecked companies behind him... How's that for an economic model?

      “As for their governing principles, I would say the only item not expressed in our parliamentary system is the subordinate nature of capital.”

      If you were reading the Wikipedia article, you must have missed the part that talks about the “cooperative principles” to which the federation adheres :

      Open Admission, Democratic Organisation, the Sovereignty of Labour, Instrumental and Subordinate Nature of Capital, Participatory Management, Payment Solidarity, Inter-cooperation, Social Transformation, Universality and Education.

      None of those principles applies in our parliamentary system.

    12. I’m not saying that the Mondragon model is economically bad, only that it doesn’t translate to a nation. The closest analogy is China’s State Corporations, which buy foreign resources cheaply then makes a profit extracting. However, such a methodology only improves Canada at the cost of others.
      Mondragon style maybe preferable to “traditional” corporations, but generally speaking corporations are non-democratic. The current system works for the current corporations, which are aimed at profitability, not social improvement. As such, reform is unlikely to come from within, and a governmental imposed reform would just see the system jerry-rigged in another fashion. For example, while working as an ex-pat, in order to avoid foreign taxes, I was paid both a local salary and an international salary. I submit that we would see the same solution applied to CEOs within Canada, if the government placed a limit on the ratio of earnings between top and bottom.
      I did not miss the 10 principles, and I would say most are consistent with Canada.
      Open Admission – Canada has the 4th highest gross immigration, and the 3rd highest immigration per capita (Syria was the only nation higher in both accounts).
      Democratic Organisation – The Senate and Governor General are by appointment, but otherwise our parliamentary structure is democratic. I’m against judicial democracy, which undermines its impartial nature, but I’d be interested to see democratic processes applied to our bureaucracy.
      Sovereignty of Labour & Instrumental and Subordinate Nature of Capital – These really are two sides to the same issue, which I stated was lacking in Canadian governance.
      Participatory Management – This is our elected officials.
      Payment Solidarity – Taxes and social services.
      Inter-cooperation – Social Transfers and Equalization Payments
      Social Transformation – Many examples of this, from healthcare to NEB.
      Universality – Officially English and French are supported, but regions with significant secondary languages have extensive services available to them in said language. For example, Toronto EMS can respond in 470 languages.
      Education – Mandatory for children, and standard for adults. Canada has the second highest in tertiary education rates (after Russia) and second in per capita government spending (after the US).

  14. Will Trudeau's phantom meeting with Boris Nemtsov be reflect in the next round of polls..... or will the impact not be noticed until the attack ads come out?

    Yet another unforced error from Trudeau and the Liberal handlers....

    Did they keep Dion's and Ignatieff's folks in charge or are they all newbies.

    Right now never mind dirt on Harper, Dimitri Soudas might be the best hope to run the Liberal campaign.

  15. Do you think there is more than 1 in 1000 Canadians who care about the difference between Mikhail Kasyanov and Boris Nemtsov? One was a former Deputy PM and the other is a former PM, and both were leaders in the same opposition coalition and Dissenter’s Marches.

    I think more people would be influenced by the subpoenaing of Nigel Wright for the upcoming Mike Duffy trial.


COMMENT MODERATION POLICY - Please be respectful when commenting. If choosing to remain anonymous, please sign your comment with some sort of pseudonym to avoid confusion. Please do not use any derogatory terms for fellow commenters, parties, or politicians. Inflammatory and overly partisan comments will not be posted. PLEASE KEEP DISCUSSION ON TOPIC.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.