Saturday, August 13, 2016

Is the Green Party ready for life after Elizabeth May?

If Elizabeth May is the Green Party, what would become of the Green Party without Elizabeth May?

This is a question that might need to be answered soon. In an interview on CBC Radio's The House, May told host David Cochrane that she could resign as leader of the Green Party within the month. She's taking the time offered by a family vacation to think it over.

This reflection has been sparked by the party's adoption of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at a policy convention last weekend. Opposed by the Green Party leader, this movement urges economic pressure against Israel as a response to what it considers the Jewish state's oppression of Palestinians.

With May as its leader since 2006 and its sole member of Parliament, the Green Party has become largely synonymous with May. Her departure, considering her largely positive national profile, could be a tremendous blow to the party.

You can read the rest of this article here.

New polls show Donald Trump trailing badly in key swing states

The electoral map has gone from bad to worse for Donald Trump, as a series of new state-level polls show him falling further behind Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic nominee's position has improved so significantly that the Presidential Poll Tracker now awards her 273 electoral college votes from "safe" states alone, putting her over the 270-vote mark needed to win the White House.

Despite claims from Trump that the polls are "getting close," a string of polls conducted by Marist College for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal suggest the opposite, with states thought to be battlegrounds showing Clinton opening up a wide lead over the Republican presidential nominee.

You can read the rest of this analysis here.

The Pollcast: The summer of electoral reform

The summer of electoral reform is upon us, and your Member of Parliament wants to know what you think about it.

As the special committee on electoral reform grills experts and meets with Canadians over the summer, MPs are quizzing their own constituents on what system they think best fits the needs of the country — and whether or not a referendum is required to put a new electoral system into place.

On this week's episode of the Pollcast, I'm joined by two Liberal MPs to hear their views on electoral reform, as well as what their own constituents are telling them.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith is the MP for the riding of Beaches–East York in Toronto and Joël Lightbound is the MP for the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert.

Upcoming episodes will feature MPs from the opposition parties.

According to the Liberal government, all options are on the table. These include a form of proportional representation or a preferential ballot. The latter system is one that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he personal supports, raising concerns that the Liberals will adopt the system that could benefit them most, no matter what the committee concludes.

But not all Liberal MPs agree that the preferential ballot is the way to go.

"I don't think alternative voting or a ranked ballot system will get at the real crux of the problem," said Erskine-Smith, "which is the distortion in outcomes that first-past-the-post engenders. So, I'm not in favour of it."

But Erskine-Smith noted that single-transferable voting (STV) has an element of ranked balloting and could be a viable solution.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to the podcast here.

Donald Trump's electoral map looking more and more difficult

As Hillary Clinton continues to make gains in the polls, Donald Trump's path to the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House is getting narrower and narrower.

The surge Clinton experienced in the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention has not dissipated. She is currently projected to have the support of 46.8 per cent of decided voters. Trump follows at 40.4 per cent. That gap of 6.4 points is the widest it has been in the Presidential Poll Tracker since the end of the U.S. primaries in early June.

Clinton's increasing lead in the national vote has contributed to her improving position in the electoral college. She is projected to win 347 electoral college votes against 191 for Trump.

The electoral college, not the national popular vote, is what decides elections. Trump will need to close the gap in a few key battleground states if he is to win the White House. Based on where he stands in the polls today, here is his easiest path to 270 electoral college votes, along with the current estimates of where the two candidates stand.

It is far from an easy path.

You can read the rest of this article here.

Donald Trump in the White House? Canadians are increasingly worried about it

A new poll suggests that Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, with almost four out of every five Canadians saying a Trump White House would be bad for Canada.

In the survey, conducted by Insights West last week, 79 per cent of respondents said they are "very concerned" or "moderately concerned" about the possibility of the Republican nominee becoming the president of the United States.

You can read the rest of this article here.


  1. This makes perfect sense. While I can think of reasons (both good and bad) why an American might prefer Donald Trump, Canadians would suffer mightily from the uncertainty a Trump presidency would bring. Clinton would be a much less disruptive president, from an international standpoint. Everyone outside the US who wants the US to be stable should favour Clinton over Trump.

  2. Éric,

    Is Trump actually stupid enough to tear up the NAFTA? He sure is...

  3. Hillary keeps pulling ahead. Some media say the race is over.

    1. Trump hasn't been predictable at any point during the process. I doubt he'll start now.

      The media is helping Clinton quite a bit. They're not paying much attention to the details that continue to be discovered from the DNC email hack, for example. As long as they only talk about Trump negatively, and only talk about Clinton positively, Clinton probably can't be caught without the Trump campaign somehow mobilizing a large population of non-voters (which they are explicitly trying to do, according to their own internal documents).

    2. Interesting point there Ira - that was the strategy that the Trump campaign pursued during the primaries, and it worked.

      The only caveat being that they brought out non-primary voters that still almost exclusively voted Republican. It was simply that they stayed out of primary races. Many of Bernie's supporters were the opposite, as he attracted many that weren't Democratic voters usually, while Hillary's campaign gobbled up regular Democrats.

      So while it's a strategy that worked in the primary for Trump, there's a huge question as to whether it can work in the general election, after all the voters they're looking to grab were already voting for the GOP. There's been little sign of Trump actually breaking into true independents in this race so far.

    3. I don't think he's so much going after independents as just non-voters. There are large swaths of the population - particularly the poorly educated - who don't vote at all.

      Historically, the same was true of minority voters as well (partly because they also tend to be poorer), but the last 2 elections saw the Obama campaign turn those people into voters already.

      I'm not confident the strategy can work, but at least it's more creative than just trying to change people's minds about issues or voting preferences (which appears to be impossible in America today).

    4. Black ones, yes, as Black participation started to equal White participation (and that was even with all of the voting suppression, voter ID, long lines, etc. that they tended to experience in 2012).

      Latino and Asian participation is still quite low, and could increase significantly in large part thanks to Trump's campaign.

      However, Trump's campaign actually did well in the primary among registered Democrats who had been voting for Republicans for awhile. That means people in places like Appalachia, or ethnic communities in Boston/New York/Maryland (Irish / Italian areas), etc. I also wonder if it's among these groups where he's losing the most ground.

  4. Éric,

    Looking at my forecast (see, I would say Wisconsin is an easier pickup for Trump than Pennsylvania, and could replace it as the tipping point. However, my forecasts use entirely voting patterns and state polling, and state polling is showing PA moving more Clinton right now than the national polling may suggest. In contrast, you have WI as a safe state for Clinton, while I have it as a likely Clinton state because of state polling. I suspect, therefore, that the biggest difference between my forecast and yours is in the weight we give to state polls, so may I ask how much weight you do give to them?

    1. The weight of state polls depends on how new they are, the track record of the polling firm, and the sample size. So, when a new state poll is out, the model is heavily weighted towards it.

      As the poll gets older, the model relies more and more on the national swing. But state polls always have at least 50% of the weight.

      That is currently the case in Wisconsin, for example. But in a state like Pennsylvania, for example, the state polls are 74% of the weight.

  5. The Republican platform was against the National Popular Vote Compact, but this makes no sense. While the Electoral College famously helped Bush in 2000, that was in a freak situation where Florida was decided by <1000 votes -- conditions never to be realistically repeated. Since then, demographics have developed to where a 50-50 vote nationally would normally deliver Florida and Virginia to the Democrats. Deep red states, seeing that the Electoral College gives no particular advantage to Republicans while encouraging candidates to ignore their states, would do well to join the compact.

    1. Though, when Trump was polling better, he was far more likely to win the electoral college while losing the popular vote than Clinton was, if only because Clinton was winning blue states by huge margins, while Trump was losing significant support in traditionally red states (while still carrying them).

      If Trump wins a red state that usually votes Republican by a 20 point margin, but Trump can only manage a 5 point margin, that makes it quite easy to imagine a scenario wherein Trump wins the election but loses the vote (though, again, this scenario requires we undo the last 2 weeks of poll movement).

    2. Out of curiosity does repeal/ abolition of the electoral college require a constitutional amendment? If so, I am not sure it is possible, America's constitution is very rigid. My recollection is that two thirds of states need to ratify an amendment or 17 states to block to put it another way; I don't think New Hampshire, Wyoming, Vermont, Rhode Island and other small states would go for that. Arguably small states punch above their weight not due to the electoral college but, the primary system and so in the end I'm not sure a popular vote mechanism would solve or improve America's "democratic deficit" to use a Canadian term.

  6. Capilano- abolishing the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, which as you say is unlikely. But each state is free to decide how to select its Electoral College electors. The National Popular Vote Compact is an agreement between states to appoint their Electoral College votes based on the nationwide winner of the popular vote. Once states with 270 Electoral College votes join the compact, then whoever wins the popular vote will be guaranteed enough Electoral College votes to win. This would make the Electoral College just a formality.

    Ira: I haven't seen a realistic scenario where Trump wins the Electoral College without the popular vote. The only time state polls showed him plausibly winning Florida, Ohio and Virginia was the few days around the Republican convention, when national polls showed him 4-5% ahead. Even those polls didn't show him ahead in any of those swing states by more than 2%. When the polling was close, Trump was doing worse in the three big swing states than he was doing nationally, which suggests to me that
    Clinton was more likely to win the Electoral College even while narrowly losing the popular vote.

    1. 538's forecast routinely showed that. Because while Trump was forecast to win Ohio and Pennsylvania, he was still only winning Texas and Georgia and Utah by small margins.

    2. Goaltender Interference,

      I've been doing my own forecasts and although it is unlikely for Trump to win the electoral college while losing the popular vote, there are quite a few scenarios in which it happens, and is likelier than vice versa. Said scenarios typically involve Trump winning (of the swing electoral votes) FL, GA, IA, NC, NE-2, OH, and PA. If he wins all of those plus where he's already expected to in my model, he wins 279-259, and he could even win in that scenario without IA and NE-2. Those states could quite conceivably go together, almost all with high evangelical Christian populations, for example. If he gets out the evangelical vote and keeps the people he already has, he can narrowly win safely Republican states and narrowly win swing states, which adds up to an electoral college win without the popular vote.

      Clinton's problem in this respect is that she already has the Democratic base - that is, if Clinton's winning or near-tying states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah, she's already won every safely Democratic state that there is. Trump is only narrowly winning safe Republican states, but making that up by being closer in some swing states.

      While it's quite unlikely for him to win the electoral college without the popular vote, I can see it happening quite easily.

    3. Thanks for the response Goaltender Interference.

      The National Vote Compact sounds stupid and there is no way it will catch on. Why would any state tailor their electoral votes based on a national average? On the state's per centage of popular vote sure but, essentially allowing other states and citizens to decide how your state will vote is a stupid undemocratic mechanism that harms federalism and takes away the votes of people living in small states! It is shocking that people would actively campaign for it. They would have a better chance of introducing an amendment where the president is elected through the popular vote.

      I understand such a mechanism is outside of constitutional change but, it is difficult to see how such a change could be legitimate since individual states would ad hoc join the compact and so an election with some "Compact States" and some "normal electoral college states" could very well take place.

      This is the problem with both the U.S. and Trudeau's constitution-they are both basically impossible to amend and truth be told neither one was designed to be amended-meaning present and future generations are held hostage by the past.

    4. Hi Capilano - I hear what you are saying, but I would characterize your arguments as favouring form over substance. The end result of abolishing the Electoral College through a constitutional amendment and reducing it to (more of) a formality through a compact are exactly the same -- the popular vote winner would be elected.

      If some states vote under compact, and others don't, so what? The results of each voter in every state still counts toward determining the President -- only, now each voter would be counted equally. But yes, I agree that abolishing the Electoral College through a constitutional amendment would be preferable.

      Actually, the Canadian and US constitutions are amended relatively often. In Canada, since 1982 Nunavut was added as a territory and Quebec and Newfoundland abolished constitutionally entrenched religious schools. The US Constitution was amended 12 times in the 20th century, the last in 1992 to limit Congressional pay raises. The constitutions of both countries aren't impossible to amend -- they are just difficult to amend when there is little consensus, which is as it should be.

    5. Goaltender is right. Constitutions should be hard to amend. The problems with Trudeau's constitution are numerous, but the amending formula isn't one of them.

    6. When constitutions can not be amended violence is almost inevitably the result: The American Revolutionary War, English Civil War, Glorious Revolution, The French Revolution, Russian Revolution, German Revolutions of 1919. World War One was in many ways a reaction to the authoritarianism and the lack of democratic and constitutional tools available for the peoples of Europe.

      Constitutions should be difficult to amend not impossible both the Canadian and American written Constitutions fall in the latter and that is why at base both are seriously flawed documents that become less democratic and legitimate with age.

      Trudeau is actively breaking long held constitutional conventions with his "hints" that he may not appoint an Atlantic judge to the SCoC. This is part of the covenant that makes and created Canada! It gives the Atlantic provinces a legitimate grievance and reason to leave Canada. It is akin to giving Quebec the same number of seats as Ontario in the House of Commons regardless of population. Now we all know Atlantic Canada won't separate but, it is sewing the seeds of discord which is pretty low from a prime minister who received every seat in Atlantic Canada at the last election.

      Also if the "problems are numerous" and the amending formula doesn't work then how pray tell can the "numerous problems" ever be rectified? In Canada and throughout the Commonwealth a tradition of amending even renewing constitutions exist. The institutions of our government are not meant to be static. Trudeau's constitution makes Canada less governable and less responsive to the will of Canadians-it is a disgrace-That is why the son has actively skirted, avoided and through his actions on the Senate and Supreme Court in essence disavowed his Father's magnum opus by using ultra-constitutional means to "reform". Both the legality of his Senate and SCoC reforms should be tested in Court.

      Secondly, GI, the effects are not the same. Compact states with small populations "vote" or voters become the national average which may or may not be what or who they voted for-either way their vote doesn't count or if it does it counts only for a fraction so small as to be meaningless. What you are saying is the "end justifies the means". Negating individual rights and federalism for a "more democratic outcome". I don't think that position is defenceable nor popular.

      The Canadian Constitution has only been amended using Ss. 38-43 requiring individual provinces and Parliament to give consent. Out of four major attempts to reform the Constitution post Second World War all have resulted in failure. In 1982 it was half successful in that the amendments passed but, without the consent of Quebec the province that had been the catalyst and reason for embarking on the journey. This failure as everyone remembers resulted in two referendums and two decades of constitutional wrangling and instability. Both Charlottetown and Meech failed due to the amending formula and Trudeau's ultra-constitutional maneouvering today on three separate issues demonstrates the uselessness of the amending formula and its inability to exercise meaningful constitutional reform upon our governing institutions.

    7. If the constitution is too easily amended, why is it a constitution rather that just ordinary legislation?

      A constitution is supposed to offer a framework for the government. It places limits on government power. And it is not subject to democratic whim.

      Yes, there are things that I would like to change in the Canadian constitution (its reliance on interpretive clauses, for example), but I know that if it were easy to change then the popular majority would quickly ruin it.

    8. I didn't write it has to be easy but, it does have to be possible, reform must at least have some prospect for success. I agree the "popular majority would quickly ruin it" so it should not be subject to democratic whims but, failure to change produces tyranny and unresponsiveness-that isn't healthy either.

  7. Good piece on Elizabeth May Eric. She has a mixed record to be sure but, all-in-all she has been very successful. The Greens now have five elected politicians in all three levels of Government by my count: Adrienne Carr, Vancouver City Councillor, Elizabeth May M.P., Andrew Weaver M.L.A., Peter Bevan-Baker M.L.A., David Coon M.L.A.

    Yes under May poll numbers have declined but such numbers are ephemeral elected politicians tangible and so May's leadership has been a great success.

    The party is in a strong position today. The B.C. Greens have a good shot achieving official party status next year, four seats. May was easily re-elected and the Greens have established a geographic base on Vancouver Island both federally and provincially.

    After 10 years and three elections May has advanced the party a great deal, to resign the leadership early in this Parliament provides her successor a realistic chance of entering Parliament in a by-election. The party is in an ideal position for a change. The real growth for the Greens over the next few years will be on the provincial scene. I think she will step down and I will predict Adrienne Carr will be the next leader.

    1. Oh Gods, I hope not. Anyone but Adrienne Carr.

    2. Carr was very active in B.C. during the federal campaign last year. I have watched her at City Council and well, she needs help in understanding the technical aspects of City Councillor and parliamentary procedure. She often acts as a parliamentarian inside the Council Chamber when the technical complexities of an issue requires a more technocratic or bureaucratic approach. In short while she works and tries hard whenever I see her in Council she appears to me a "bit out of place". As a former leader of the B.C. Greens she arguably has the credentials.

      Secondly, Carr has the "safest" Green seat in the country. Vancouver has had a Green within its municipal government since, 2005 when Andrea Reimer became a school trustee and Carr has won two consecutive elections as a City Councillor. If a by-election occurred the Greens would be in a strong position to retain Carr's seat although much would depend on the candidates and of course turnout which hovers around 15% for municipal by-elections. From what I hear Carr is also personally close to Elizabeth May.

    3. I personally witnessed Adrienne Carr trying to start arguments with economists at Fraser Institute events, and she never came across as particularly bright.

    4. I have never thought being particularly bright was a prerequisite for elected office.

      I don't know anything about the incident you write about but, it strikes me that they aren't going to agree no matter what was said.

      It reminds me of the story David Suzuki relates about the mining executive who came to see him once in the hope of gaining "social licence" or positive media attention. At the end of the meeting the executive was unable to shake Suzuki's hand. The executive wasn't a jerk or even unkind it was simply that he had a duty to his share holders-to make money- and Suzuki also has a duty or objective-to protect the environment from intrusive and or detrimental resource development projects. So, the two simply couldn't agree. Suzuki would opine the most valuable commodities on this planet are clean air and water and so no amount of economic benefits could off-set or compensate from the loss of pristine habitat. Conversely, the executive does put a price on the Environment in the form of economic development costs, natural resource prices, profit and jobs. The two weren't able to agree because they were unable to agree on what was important or even valuable-never mind a framework for development.

      So, when Adrienne Carr wanders into a Fraser Institute gathering it seems to me she may be looking for a fight.

    5. She was looking for a fight. I would have expected her to come better armed.

      Every exchange made her look foolish. She was primarily arguing with Fraser Institute founder (and member of the Order of Canada) Dr. Michael Walker.

  8. Keep American politics off the site. This is, after all, a CANADIAN political site. The Americans don't give two sh*ts about Canadian politics, so why give them the coverage?

    1. If you don't like Eric's coverage of the biggest US election in almost a decade, why do you waste time on here and commenting? Go do something else with your internet connection.

  9. Steve Northeast,

    We're real political junkies and we want our fix of everything political! Thanks ever so much, Éric.


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