Fri, Apr
27
2007

Yet Another Toronto-based Political Blog, But...

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This photograph is called FairJohnJohnParkWalk and is by the doodlers. It is used in accordance with her Creative Commons license.

There are so many of these (myself included), one wonders why we bother even promoting them, but after receiving an e-mail from Toronto Life’s Associate Editor Jason McBride, I went over and had a look at Philip Preville’s blog. After a while leafing through the posts, I decided to add it to my newsreader.

Philip writes in a clear, professional style that is hard to pin down, politically. He’s very politically aware, and spares no barbs for the current city council, but he’s not reflexively anti-Miller as some of the columnists writing for the Toronto Sun. His take on Toronto’s garbage crisis is refreshingly clear-headed and the layout of his blog is quite readable.

And he’s kind enough to link to Spacing’s Wire and the TTC Rider’s Efficiency Guide, so I don’t feel so bad recommending the work of a professional when so many amateurs deserve credit. I’ll be suggesting that he add Steve Munro’s blog as well as Transit Toronto to his list.


Ruminations on the Polls

The polls are all over the place; have been for a while, but if there is one consistent thing about them, it’s that the various parties are dancing around their 2006 election night numbers, or below them. Only the Greens get something to cheer about, and I strongly suspect that a fair chunk of their support is parked. I know supporters on all sides are wondering what it’s going to take to send their party over the top into majority territory. Conservatives in particular are baffled that their party remains tantalizingly out of reach of the brass ring, given the “disastrous” performance of their main opponent, Stephane Dion.

Here’s a poll that’s generally considered to be an aberration. Certainly it puts the Conservatives much lower than the other pollsters and must be taken with even more grain of salt that polls are usually taken with.

Conservatives: 30%
Liberals: 29%
New Democrats: 18%
Greens: 11%
Bloc Quebecois: 8%

(link).

I noted to Greg Staples that, accurate or not, this poll had to be a record: the Conservatives and the Liberals were netting just 59% of the vote. If you take the PC and Alliance/Reform vote in the 1993, 1997 and 2000 elections and lump them together, the two main players in the election scene have never been that low, have they? He did a little research and confirmed that their worst performance out of a ballot box came in 1945, when they netted just 67% of the popular vote.

While more partisan-blindered Conservatives supporters argued that Conservatives were more likely to go for a country drive on weekends, people living in the real world could only speculate. And here’s my speculation. As troubled as Stephane Dion has been in taking the mantle of the Liberal leadership, the Conservatives have also been shooting themselves in their foot.

This week, the Conservative Party launched its counter-offencive against the perceived strengths the Liberals boasted on the environmental portfolio. Environment minister Jim Baird brought forward a new Green Plan that has been ridiculed by environmentalists by meeting 50% of 2010’s emission reduction targets in 2020 while containing just enough window dressing measures to annoy libertarian-leaning supporters. To counter the remaining concerns, Baird appeared before a House of Commons committee and painted an economic apocalypse that the government’s own researchers acknowledged was the extreme worst-case scenario — a scenario that not only hiked the costs of compliance, but ignored potential offsetting job growth in greener sectors, not to mention the quality of life improvements (and the international investment that comes from that) which comes from cleaner air.

To put it bluntly, Conservatives like Baird aren’t playing straight with us, and Dion hasn’t yet found the ingredients necessary to make voters forgive, much less forget, the arrogance and corruption that brought the previous Liberal government to an end. And while Gilles Duceppe is keeping his head down after the sovereigntists’ humiliating defeat in Quebec, only Jack Layton seems intent to getting something productive out of this parliament — an attempt stymied by the Conservatives unwillingness to bring its Clean Air Act to a vote, despite various noises about the willingness of the Conservatives to work with the NDP. Now Jack Layton just looks like a chump.

So, why are the various parties staying out of majority territory? Because they don’t deserve to be there. We’re still in a pox on all your houses territory.

I’ll give Dion credit from trying to step outside of the usual political way of doing things (such as his gentleman’s agreement with Elizabeth May), and I’ll credit Harper for a budget that tried to reach across the centre to interests beyond the Conservative base. I’ll give Jack Layton credit for working hard behind the scenes in parliament, but I don’t yet get a sense that the politicians quite get it. We elected them. They are responsible to us. I want more of a sense that they’re looking harder at their own platforms, and considering ways to build bridges between their bases, and a wider selection of Canadians. To stop manoeuvring for that one killer blow that can put them into majority territory and give them a free hand for the next four years to say ‘ha ha, we fooled you; we didn’t really have your interests at heart.’

Until that happens, I’m quite happy having the various parties where they are: forced to work together with their natural enemies in order to make House of Commons work on a day-to-day basis. The rhetoric and the bellicosity aside, it has been an interesting parliament, and for that reason, I predict that whenever the election does come (most likely in Spring 2008), the result is going to be a frustrating one for all the parties concerned. But a victory for Canadians.


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