Tagged: New Democratic Party of Canada

Mulcair’s boycott of CBC Radio

I’m glad Thomas Mulcair won the leadership of the NDP Saturday. He has the best shot at retaining at least some of the party’s beachhead in Quebec. He’s said to be tough and politically shrewd, both of which he’ll need to be when dealing with the wily Stephen Harper. He clearly plans to edge the party toward the centre, ala Darrell Dexter and other successful NDP premiers, and that’s a good tactic when facing a government of right wing ideologues.

But I’m not without a few qualms, including Mulcair’s reputation for carrying grudges, and his occasional bone-headed statements on foreign policy, including his knee-jerk support for right-wing Israeli policies that pose a danger to Israel and the world.

My qualms are not eased by Mulcair’s silly, and thus far unexplained, spat with CBC Radio’s English service. Mulcair boycotted English CBC Radio throughout the campaign and in the days since. He refuses to explain the boycott, or even own up to it, but his rejection of interview requests is too consistent to be happenstance. If anyone else knows what stuck in his craw, I haven’t heard the explanation.

Perhaps Mulcair has been impressed at how successfully Harper buffaloed the national press corps by treating it with contempt. On CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition, Francine Pelletier lamented the gallery’s failure even to protest Harper’s continuing refusal to hold news conferences.

I don’t like having a prime minister who bullies the press. I don’t like press gallery reporters who respond like whipped spaniels. And I won’t take warmly to an NDP leader who is tempted to follow the same recipe.

Liberal honey vs. Harper bile

I’m a little late with this, but it’s worth noting for the record the contrast between the way the Liberal Party of Canada and the governing Harper Conservatives reacted to Thomas Mulcair’s election as leader of the New Democratic Party and Leader of the Opposition Saturday night.

Rae issued the following statement:

I want to offer my warm congratulations to Thomas Mulcair on winning the leadership contest in the New Democratic Party.  I know Mr. Mulcair well and look forward to working with him to ensure Parliament acts on behalf of all Canadians.

I also want to congratulate the NDP for a successful leadership convention, particularly in opening up the selection process to Canadians across the country.

I also want to salute Mme Nycole Turmel for the integrity she showed as Interim Leader of the NDP. Her grace was apparent as she courageously carried out her duties admirably in the wake of the tragic passing of Jack Layton.

At about the same time, Harper’s Conservative Party issued a set of talking points to select reporters:

Today in Toronto, the NDP have chosen Thomas Mulcair to push their agenda of high taxes, high spending and less economic growth.

Thomas Mulcair is an opportunist whose high tax agenda, blind ambition, and divisive personality would put Canadian families and their jobs at risk.

Mulcair has said he would bring back a risky, job-killing carbon tax which would raise the price of everything – even though Canadians overwhelmingly rejected carbon taxes. Canadians can’t afford Mulcair’s dangerous economic experiments.

Also, Thomas Mulcair has vowed to bring back the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, and his soft on crime positions would take Canada back to policies that put the rights of criminals ahead of those of victims.

Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to create jobs and economic growth. For hard-working Canadian families looking for a government that will put them first, it is clear that the only choice is Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Very different statements to be sure, but both, in their way, a mark of their respective author’s character.

Chisholm for PM — feedback

To judge from my inbox today, something about the manner of Robert Chisholm’s departure from the provincial leadership pissed off a few New Democratic Party loyalists. But one party stalwart rejected these comments as, “old wounds and sour grapes.”

Don’t be too quick to put him in the Chisholm column though:

More to the point – how can a uni-lingual politician aspire to the leadership of a national political party in Canada in 2011? A party with over 50% of its caucus from Quebec? A party with official opposition status and its eye on the big prize?

Je ne comprends pas.

Moi non plus.

Chisholm for Prime Minister?

A failed Nova Scotia NDP leader for leader of the national NDP?

Hasn’t that been tried before?

I don’t know what he’s up to. Certainly not hoping to become leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. Raising his personal profile? For what? Consolidating regional delegates in case of a brokered convention? To what end? The whole thing strikes me as an exercise in misplaced vanity.

Parliamentary cover-up

The Globe and Mail says Scarborough-Rouge River MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan, 29, might be “the most compelling of the new crop of young NDP MPs.”

She’s the first Tamil-Canadian MP, and so has become the de facto standard-bearer for thousands of Canadians who have felt defeated – militarily, in their country of birth, and politically, in their new home. As a 29-year-old woman from political cultures – both Canadian and Sri Lankan – in which older men make most of the decisions, she exudes the poise, organizing skills and confidence of an old-school political veteran.

How awkward for Contrarian, then, to report alert reader Mark Austin’s discovery of an evident cover-up concerning the estimable Ms. Sitsabaiesan (pronounced SITS-a-bye-EE-sin, according to the Globe). Driven by what we are certain was only the purest of citizenly motives, Mr. Austin carried out a Google image search of the compelling Parliamentarian and stumbled upon the thumbnail at right.

Seeking further edification, he clicked through to the underlying webpage source of the image, which turned out to be Ms. Sitsabaiesan’s official online Parliamentary profile. There he found the image at left, close inspection of which reveals — how to put this delicately? — certain modification.

The Google thumbnail that connected to the official Parliamentary page now seems to have disappeared from Google’s image search results, leading us to conclude that Mr. Austin’s search occurred in the brief interval before Google’s image search caught up with a change in the underlying page. A similar thumbnail, however, still cleaves to MP Sitsabaiesan’s page at the open-source OpenParliament.ca website, which credits the image as “House of Commons photo.”

This persuades us that the photo on the official website of Parliament must have originally appeared in the (please forgive us) cloven version, only to fall under the Parliamentary PhotoShopster’s digital airbrush. This makes us wonder whether the bowdlerization took place on request from the NDP caucus, from MP Sitsabaiesan’s office, or on the Parliamentary website’s own authority.

In any case, Mr. Austin puts the entire question into healthy perspective:

[T]he anomalies of the last federal election have resulted in greater youth and diversity than ever in the House.  Let’s hope it injects new life.

Amen, brother.


Pundits’ Guide begs the question

Last Thursday, Contrarian got into a bit of a Twitter dustup with Alice Funke, whose blog, Pundits’ Guide, features statistical analysis of Canadian election results.

In a post titled, “Mommy, They Split My Vote,” Funke purported to show that few if any of the 27 Liberal seats lost to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the May 2 election had been lost due to vote-splitting. Her complicated argument defies succinct exegesis, but you can read it here.

In response, I tweeted:


This unleashed a torrent of counter-tweets that, for the time being at least, you can find here and here (by scrolling back to May 12). Funke followed up with an email buttressing her position (which I quote with her permission):

Of course in a multi-party, first-past-the-post electoral system, there are seats won by less than 50%. But the people currently arguing that “vote-splitting amongst ‘the left’ is allowing the Conservatives to win”, honestly do not know their election result data.

Outside of the very few core urban seats in Canada, where the Liberal vote falls off, it largely falls off to the Conservatives’ benefit, or stays home to their benefit. So, there are vote splits alright, but on the right-hand side of the spectrum. But this is not what was being argued as the cause of those Liberal seats falling…

[Y]ou can’t simply add the Liberal and NDP votes in any given election together, because for the “vote-splitting” argument to work you need to prove that any voters who stayed home in 2008 but showed up to vote this time, would have also showed up to vote in the case where there was a single, let’s say Liberal, choice on the ballot.

In the suburban Toronto and 905 seats I presented in detail, either:

* the Conservative vote hikes came from Liberals, and the NDP gains came from previous non-voters and previous Greens, or

* the Conservative vote hikes came from previous non-voters and previous Greens, and the NDP gains came from Liberals

Mathematically, there are no other generalized possibilities.

If there were a preferential ballot in Canada, and there were no more “vote splits” by your definition, it is not at all clear that it would have the outcome everywhere that you believe. In core urban seats, yes. But they are not the majority of ridings in Canada, though everyone who spouts the current version of the vote-splitting argument seems to come from one and believes that voting pattern to be universal. It’s not.

I do not quarrel with Funke’s arithmetic. My problem is that she begs the question.* That is to say, her definition of vote-splitting is so narrow as to all but guarantee the result she found. To certify a loss as one due to vote-splitting, Funke requires two conditions:

  • The party gaining the seat does so by gaining fewer votes than the party losing the seat loses, and that
  • Some third party gains more votes than the losing party loses

When we encounter a definition this odd and this technical in a blogpost with the churlish title “Mommy, They Split My Vote,” we may be forgiven for wondering if it was devised to be unmeetable (at least in a transformative election).

Many Canadians would define vote-splitting as any seat where a Harper candidate beat a Liberal or NDP incumbent but took less than 50 percent of the vote. I am inclined to accept Funke’s point that such outcomes are inevitable in a first-past-the-post election with three or more parties.

In the context of the election just past however, vote-spitting could be reasonably defined as any seat where a Harper candidate beat a Liberal incumbent by a margin smaller than the increase in that riding’s NDP vote. A tally of ridings fitting this definition would be illuminating, as would knowing whether Harper would have a majority without them.

By election day, everyone could predict that the Liberals and the Greens would shed votes, the NDP would gain, and the Harperists would either hold or gain. Given those assumptions, it was all but certain the Liberals would lose seats. In some cases, it seemed likely they would lose seats to the Conservatives because too many previously Liberal or Liberal-inclined voters would defect to the NDP.

Such shifts are, to a large extent, hypothetical. The electorate in each riding has changed in the two and a half years since the last vote. Some voters have died, others have come of age, moved in, moved out, attained citizenship, etc. In both elections, many voters stayed home for a multitude of reasons. Those who voted Liberal in 2008 but deserted the party this year may have moved to the NDP, the Harperists, or the Greens—or they may have stayed home altogether. Attempts to parse these shifts without detailed exit surveys are a mug’s game, and given voters’ notoriously faulty reporting, they are problematic even with exit surveys in hand.

But in a highly polarized electorate, where the defunct centre right party has been taken over by the hard right, and where the centrist party in steep decline, it’s legitimate for progressive voters to worry that a shift of anti-Harper votes from Liberal incumbents to NDP also-rans could have the unintended effect of letting Harper candidates slip up the middle to victory.

For millions of Canadians, fear of giving an unchecked majority to a hard right party led by an uncompromising authoritarian trumps their loyalty to either the Liberals or the NDP. Their concerns are legitimate. Pundits’ Guide would perform a service by quantifying them, rather than simply pooh-poohing them.

* Please note rare quasi-correct use of this figure of speech.