Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Final Canadian Election Choice

So, I made my decision on Monday, and finalized the series of envelopes that will ultimately make absolutely no difference to the fate of my riding, but make me feel better for at least participating.

Oz Cole-Arnal (NDP)

I know I am going to take a fair bit of flak for voting NDP, but I think the decision was justified based on what I consider a reasonable analysis, so please read on before you flame me to my ultimate demise.

Green John Bithell didn't make the final three. While I have no particular gripe with the Green party, the continued green focus of the NDP, and 'Green Shift' of the Liberals give me two alternatives to access the key Green platform item. The rest of their platform is a grab-bag of ideas across the centre-left; clearly not a unified vision. The Greens are working hard to be taken seriously; they've had an MP, and their leader is finally in the debates. Still, I'm not ready to be a Green "early adopter" until at least one MP is elected and proves to be a force in the House of Commons. My particular candidate is a new nomination to the riding, has no serious qualifications to brag about, and has practically no personal platform information beyond his basic bio. He didn't even have a Facebook politician page. No communication - no vote.

So, down to the parties.

Conservatives are socially and fiscally the right of the spectrum - which puts them at odds with my other options (who pretty much all share the environmentalist centre-left at this point). This really leads to an "us vs. them" approach to just about everything, from their party politics to the media. Continuing the trend from 2006, the Conservatives' platform has consistently been less about their own policies as ridiculing the Liberals.

Despite an accountability platform in 2006, they're the least trustworthy of any party, for reasons I've already outlined, even in the very calling of the election! They've even earned the ire of two provincial governments though their broken promises to date. There's several deal breakers in their policies that have relied on their secrecy and disregard for accountability to proceed. The main ones - the latest IP treaties and copyright bills, directly affect my life even from the US! Plus, even where they've got positive campaign points, like anti-spam, they're areas that they've already provably failed from the past two years.

It also doesn't help that I am morally opposed to their social conservatism (right to life, anti-gay, etc) - it doesn't affect me personally at all, but I still can't support the party that actually tried (and failed, heh) to reopen the gay marriage debate.

On the plus side, their leader is tried and tested, and he's good at what he does. They're also the only party that is actually thinking about not lighting our economy on fire (though their success to date is a matter of opinion). Their social conservatism actually helps them out in getting tough on crime. They're the only party for whom the main sales point is something other than the environment. Finally, as much as I hate to bow to it, they're good because they're not the Liberals or NDP, who are next on my scorn list.

The Liberals are the 'natural' Canadian party, and what I would normally support in any sane election. However this time around, it's just bloody ridiculous! Their leader is incredibly uncharismatic. Instead of selling a reformed Liberal party willing to lead responsibly in times of economic uncertainty, they're selling a green shift (with a proposal of which many are dubious). This, combined with rampant spending I mentioned earlier. If I wanted a slew of new social programs, I'd go NDP, much like I'd go Green for a carbon tax.

It's a party that is ready neither for an election nor to lead. Given their inability to show the slightest backbone as opposition between 2006 and 2008, they don't even seem ready to be an opposition. They're the least vocal of the parties in the campaign, and haven't done anything to sell most people beyond trying to stave off the vicious Conservative offensive.

The NDP are basically socialists. Raise taxes, give them to some poor starving kid overseas. Or more likely, give it to the unionized workers who make up much of their base. Not pleasant at all if you like paying less taxes, or think that a high corporate tax rate will negatively affect your job. They've been focusing on green issues much longer than the Liberals, but with a more regulation heavy cap-and-trade approach.

Their leader: a veteran of campaigning, but not of leadership. Never a leader, nor even an official opposition. Still, Jack Layton is charismatic among his supporters, and at least has more support than Dion.

  • Stephen Woodworth (CON)
  • Strong educational background (practicing lawyer).
  • Liberal candidate (1988), but hasn't otherwise run recently.
  • Passable communication from website with press releases, though often focused on the party level. Local commentators have observed very little communication.
  • Website has very little useful 'static' information. Focused almost exclusively as being a Conservative mouthpiece.
  • Involvement in right-to-life groups.

  • Karen Redman (LIB)
  • Weak educational background (BA, a 'writer').
  • Veteran of riding for 11 years, party whip, caucus member, leader of several private member's bills, and often involved in question period.
  • Lack of online communication via her website or Facebook group. I got more info on her campaign from Woodworth's website!
  • Passable static website information talking about her varied activities while holding her seat.
  • Environmental issues, womans' issues, disability issues.
  • Hefty religious involvement, but does not appear to play out in her political life.

  • Oscar Cole-Arnal (NDP)
  • Doctorate in European History! (my previous comments mocked his Masters in the New Testament, but when you add a pair of post-grad degrees on top of that, you've got my respect).
  • Newcomer, replacing a better-known NDP candidate. Only been in Canada since 1975, and a citizen since 1986.
  • Top communication by far. A blog, active Facebook group. Also lots of static information - I know exactly what his personal key issues are.
  • Lots of support for 'redistribution of wealth'.
  • Woman's issues, social justice. Meh.
  • Regulation. Yay. Proportional representation. VERY yay! More transparency in Government, but in particular not negotiating trade deals in secret - with ACTA coming, this is absolutely essential.
  • Extremely high level of religious involvement. Doesn't play out negatively like in the US, but one stil has to worry.

Analysis and Conclusion

My choice is Conservative, Liberal or NDP. None of the three have the perfect platform. However, while I enjoy the fact that the Conservatives are the only party that differentiates itself from the pack and isn't trying to raze the economy to buy voters, they have deal-breaker policies (eg. copyright) and a blatant disregard for their own accountability laws that would otherwise prevent such travesties from happening. Anyways, I just don't like their US "character assault" style of campaign. While their local candidate is educated, I don't have the information nor the trust to believe he'd do the right thing either.

But I have to look at reality. The conservatives will get the plurality, no matter what I say. The choice is only really of majority or minority, and who gets how many seats of opposition. So I must choose the party who will best defend my interests against the Conservatives, which is a very different question than who I want to lead.

In the end, it has to be the NDP. The Liberals were literally useless in the last parliament, meekly surrendering to every confidence vote. During the Liberal minority before it, the NDP were a major player, and bought several concessions for the budgets they voted for. The Liberals are basically a shattered party, which is no good for an opposition that needs to keep the Conservatives from doing evil things.

While I'd normally worry about the excessive spending of the NDP or their focus on the common worker over... well... me... as an opposition they are unlikely to cause these sorts of problems. Anyways, the Liberals seem so concerned with rebuilding their voter base that the NDP seem fiscally conservative in comparison. A party more amenable to government regulation may also prove useful, given the telco stranglehold on the country. For example, I think NDP would be a better defender of net neutrality and cell carrier abuses, which the Liberals enabled, and the Conservatives ultimately failed to defend when it counted.

But I can't lie, what ultimately sold me: Oz. I respect his extensive education. I enjoyed that I could read his policies, and follow his campaign online. Even when I was ambivalent or even against his policies, at least he was upfront and honest about them. Both him and Karen from the Liberals focused exclusively on what I'd call 'meh' issues that mean nothing to me, but the fact that Oz's communication was more personal and immediate from him blog gave me confidence that when an issue I do care about comes up, he'll be a stronger advocate for it.

Guess it's all marketing in the end. As is with the microcosm that is my riding, Jack Layton's message reached me best. So they get my vote.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Voting By Mail

My vote is filled out, and ready to go in the mail. It's sad that I need to vote before the leader debates, but it has to arrive by the same election day the rest of you scrubs vote, or it's not counted.

It's actually a very reasonable process. You proactively register to vote in the riding of your last permanent address in Canada, and provide your new mailing address. They will contact you occasionally by mail to make sure your info is up to date (even with the occasional reminder email, if you're one of those 'computer' folk). You can register (or remain registered) up to five years from the date of your departure, after which you are no longer considered eligible to vote. 

When an election is called, they print up your 'special' ballot and mail it out to you, right away!

A ballot. Literally just a dotted line to write a name, so don't make a mistake! But then, no less than THREE envelopes.
  • Inner envelope. Votes need to be private, after all, so they give you a small unmarked envelope that actually goes in the ballot box on election day.
  • Outer envelope. Your vote needs to be private, but also unique. Name, riding, and various uniquely identifying marks clearly on the envelope, and a dotted line to sign saying that this is your one and only vote for the election. I might have spilled some Photoshop on it.
  • Mailing envelope. Since your name and signature need to be private, right? Plus nice and addressed. But sorry, you have to pay your own postage.
Pretty easy! It's my last election (anywhere!) for awhile, so I'm making it count.

Who did I vote for? Well, you can probably guess, and it's something I enjoy sharing, but that can wait for the next post.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Riding Updates and More Voting Thoughts

They updated my riding again. The Communist candidate is back. Also an Independent candidate, Amanda Lamka; though a complete unknown. Found some great commentary about my riding as well.

Even better, a website and blog for the NDP candidate! While I was skeptical of Cole-Arnal before (both as a fresh face, and a perceived danger of faith-based policies), I am now far more accepting of his candidacy. The web is a powerful tool of democracy - there's no excuse anymore to not be in regular communication with your constituents. The combination of a regularly updated blog and a Facebook page garner huge amounts of my respect. Even better, I now know about his policies instead of just his qualifications.

The election continues to depress me. Given that my vote has to be mailed in soon to make it to Ottawa on time, this is a worrying development. My choices are: don't vote at all, vote for the independent candidate, for the Communist party, the Green party, the NDP, the Liberal party, or the Conservative party.

I dismiss not voting. Not voting is a bad option (unless you're uninformed) - it expresses support for all parties equally, even the ones you like less than the others. One may say that it sends a message of disdain for all of the candidates. However, in the results it is very difficult to differentiate apathetic voters from informed dissenters. Voter apathy is a key battleground for the US, but not much at all in Canada.

I dismiss the independent. Recent minorities have proven that independents can decide the fate of entire governments! I cannot in good conscience vote for someone with potentially massive power with no knowledge of their intended platform. Until she reaches out to voters over the Internet, no vote for her.

I dismiss the Communist candidate. No chance of the vote being meaningful, and I don't agree with most of the platform (eg. anti-free-trade). Nor do I suspect that a disabled truck driver is going to be the most effective advocate of my concerns.

So, Green, NDP, Liberal, or Conservative.
My thoughts, coming up...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

So Much for Kitchener Centre

Well, I've received my ballot, so whenever I'm ready, I can get my vote on in Kitchener Centre.

But it's not that easy. No sooner than I declare a grudging respect for one of the candidates in Kitchener Centre, that it's announced that every party except for the Liberal incumbant Karen Redman, has been swapped out!

Lets see who we have for candidates now.
  • Stephen Woodworth (CON). Laurier grad, and a lawyer. Former Liberal candidate. Admittedly, not bad, except for being heavily involved in right-to-life and Christian advocacy groups.
  • Karen Redman (LIB). BA English. Involved with disability and children's issues.
  • Oscar Cole-Arnal (NDP). Masters in 'New Testament' (I can't make stuff like that up!). Issues mostly centre around civil rights.
  • John Bithell (GRN). Not much mentioned. 'Studied' macroeconomics.

Except for the Green Party candidate, every single candidate has heavy religious involvement to the point where I can't expect them to really be advocates for... you know... actual important issues instead of faith-based initiatives or random useless hippie propaganda. Great. Way to ramp up the suck in my riding.

I'm getting a lot of people telling me "you should vote for the party, not the candidate." While I disagree with the assertion (your MP is meant to be your representative first and foremost), I already explained that it was just a backup plan because of the equal amount of suck thrown out by all the parties.

But just to satisfy people, lets see what we can find about the parties. We already know that there's no way we could ever trust the Conservatives. Apparently it's an opinion shared even by some provinces. So, vote Liberal or NDP? Well, unfortunately, not wanting to prove Harper's claims of ridiculous spending wrong, both parties are fighting to waste as much money as possible to give free rides to old people and parents to buy votes. Of course, they're also looking to offer some money to potentially useful things like city infrastructure and schools, but still, there's only so much money to go around, and it's pretty clear that the sort of spending they want to make is going to be off the charts!

The Greens and the Bloc seem to just be staying out of the way, and allowing the mutually-assured-epic-fail between the big boys to play out to their advantage. Great.

This is ridiculous. How am I supposed to vote when I'm being given these sort of choices?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

But wait, Lownewulf... can you vote in 2008?

Yep, I can vote by mail, likely for the last time. After five years out of the country, Elections Canada will probably start questioning my extended absence from Canada, so by 2012, I may only be able to contribute through what meager influence I can make on other voters.

I'll probably vote in Kitchener Centre, as my last 'permanent' address. Unfortunately, it's an unfamiliar riding to me, since my last (counted) vote was Kitchener-Waterloo (I was eligible in 2006 in KC by mail, but the ballot didn't reach me). KW was easy, especially with the on-campus debates. The charismatic Liberal veteran versus the asshat Conservative, the NDP nooblet, and ridiculous Greeny. It was a pretty easy call.

In my latest riding; well we'll see who the candidates are. If voting by party, the Liberals get a massive 'meh', and I'm still waiting to see if the NDP can pull some excitement out of their ass. So really, it'll probably come down to candidates.

In terms of candidates, I'd probably support the NDP guy, Richard Walsh-Bowers. I appreciate his hefty professional and university academic backgrounds in clinical psychology - I believe higher education, especially in the sciences, can lead to a candidate better predisposed to critical thinking and objective analysis. Still, I haven't seen or read much on him, so we'll have to wait and see if he's persuasive, or if he supports any crackpot policies.

Karen Redman, the Liberal candidate... meh. She's the Liberal whip, and apparently fairly competent. But she lacks the powerhouse academics of Walsh-Bowers (BA English... fries with that?). The groups she's involved in seem like the polar opposite of anything I'd remotely care about - heavy church involvement, disabilities, dependent children, blah blah blah. She campaigns a lot for her riding's interests, which is great for her riding, but meaningless to me here in Seattle.

Even if I hadn't already summarily dismissed the Conservatives for their disregard of their own accountability platform, Steven Cage sounds like a pretty big asshat. Big MBA education and money job is his background (as a techie, I naturally distrust MBAs). Standard anti-Liberal rhetoric instead of an actual platform of his own... except for an aggressive opposition to gay marriage of course.

Oh, and a Communist Party candidate. Yarly! If that wasn't hilarious enough, he's a former truck driver on disability for stress and depression. What a winner!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why You Should Send the Conservatives Packing

The Canadian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, is expected to request the dissolution of Parliament today, which will ultimately lead to an election in October 2008. Despite being the smallest minority government in history, it is also the longest a minority government has survived.

Still, this is a great opportunity to send the Tories packing.

"Why, Lownewulf? Why, if the Conservatives have done so well, would you send them home? They even gave us a 2% GST cut!" Sure, but in the end, for a Government whose campaign was centered around government ethics and accountability, they have shown a brazen disregard for their own accountability rules that make the Liberals look like saints in comparison (and given that the Liberals were largely booted out due to the sponsorship scandal, that says a lot!). They are so incredibly dishonest, and have shown such a callous disregard for accountability, that one cannot possibly trust them to lead for a second longer.
So, if you feel that a Government should actually be accountable, vote for anyone but the Conservatives! Of course, that's easier said than done. After all, who on Earth are you going to vote for?

The Liberals? Sure, they're the standard middle ground for Canadians - the Liberals are always a safe bet! But Dion is perhaps the least inspiring leader that Canadian politics has ever seen! I may have despised Paul Martin, but at least he was worth paying attention to. And seriously, a green focus? Why not copy a party that's actually successful rather than copying the Greens, who have never even held a seat! Seriously, it's like this party lost it's will after 2006, and is still floundering to find its purpose again.

The NDP? They were exciting during the 38th Parliament, but what have they done for us since then except whine in the background? Anyways, I'm not quite ready for a 80% tax rate to support every sad story on the planet.

Ironically, the Bloc is the sanest of the parties right now (assuming you ignore the whole soverignty thing :p). A socially liberal stance but with the sort of financial and political discipline that even the Conservatives should admire. Problem is, you can't vote for them since they only exist in Quebec - and even if you did, it's a mathematical impossibility for them to govern *.

[ * 308 seats, 75 of them in Quebec. Split the remainder evenly between Liberal, Conservative and NDP; each remaining party must have at least 77 seats, meaning Bloc can't govern without a formal coalition. ]

The Greens? Seriously? Come on. No.

Of course, there's always the local independent candidate. After all, they made all the difference during the 38th Parliament. But, is there a good one in YOUR riding, who will fight hard enough to make your vote count?

Some folks down here admired the fact that we could call an election now, and still have our results decided before the Americans chose their president. On the other hand, at least they have some decent candidates to choose from this time around.