Resolving Timeline Issues

Archive for September 2008

Look! A sneak preview of the Canadian Leadership Debate!

He pissed off David Letterman. And he was dumb enough to piss off Letterman by standing him up.

Last night, John McCain was supposed to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman. At the last minute, McCain phones Letterman and tells him “Sorry, I can’t be on the show tonight, I have to go back to Washington RIGHT AWAY to deal with the economic crisis.” Because, you know, John McCain is a POW and a hero in every sense of the word.

So, Letterman gets Keith Olbermann from MSNBC to help out because something about the cancellation didn’t smell right to Letterman.

And McCain goes next door to have a nice little interview with Katie Couric instead (not that I don’t like Katie – in fact, I like her quite a bit). Oh and he didn’t get back to Washington until Thursday.

John, John. JOHN! Wake up! Both shows are filmed at CBS studios. You could have done both. Instead, you went and pissed off one of the kings of late night.

Now, if you’d done that to Jay Leno, for example, it wouldn’t matter so much. But you pissed off Letterman.

Note to politicians: DO NOT PISS OFF LETTERMAN. He will rip you apart on his show. Because he CAN.

You see, unlike Jay Leno, Letterman actually owns the company that produces his show (World Wide Pants, Inc.). Letterman can do whatever the hell he wants on his show.

And John McCain was stupid enough not to realize this. And when you are that stupid, you get this treatment:

So I put that last post up about being knocked up and then I leave for a bit (after admonishing you that It Only Takes Once, Kids).

The partial truth is that I have nothing to write about. I could write about having a bun in the oven (but really, do you want to hear about my sore boobs? Crunchy got a hit of that in an email this afternoon and I think I scared her off) (and isn’t that the most nauseating phrase to describe someone who’s pregnant?), or I could write about politics (but really, I’m tired of that, and the Canadian election is boring), or I could talk about economics (but there many more people who are far better with economics than I am, so I’ll just leave the current issues at “The US is fucked, and Canada might be, too.”).

The other part of the truth is I am a bit overwhelmed with this pregnancy thing. I’m tired. I can’t seem to keep the house together, and I don’t make it past about 9pm which is why nothing is getting done.

So this is what you get: a couple of paragraphs (with a lot of parentheses)

(Originally written September 11-12)

Overheard, last year, while catching up on episodes of Battlestar Galactica (where the female Cylon fighter is pregnant):

Me: So if a Cylon is a toaster, what’s a Cylon baby?
Darren: A Poptart!

September 10, 2008 – I’d been feeling kind of crappy and tired all week. And my boobs were sore – sore to the point that if I went downstairs or upstairs, I had to hold them. And the sleeping. And the peeing.

Anyways, at some point something clicked and I wandered up to the drugstore on my lunch break and bought a two-pack of pregnancy tests (because a one-pack was only $2 less than a two-pack). Then I made some excuse at work about “errands” and went home early.

By the time I got home, I had to pee. So I dashed upstairs peed on the stick, recapped it and put it on the floor in front of me (flat, like the instructions said). Then I finished peeing. By the time I finished up, I had two lines.

Huh! I said. Wow! I said out loud.

And then I went out, got Darren a package of Poptarts, and wrapped it in birthday paper (his birthday is on the 16th). Then I figured, “What the hell” and peed on the second stick. Within about 30 seconds it came up positive.

Then I forgot to phone Darren to tell him I went home early and didn’t realize he was waiting for me at the train station. He was a little miffed. I put the poptarts on his chair in the office.

When he got home, I basically stalked him until he opened the package.

Darren: Oh! I can haz birfday present?
Me: Yes, open it. NOW.
Darren: [shakes box] is it breakable?
Me: Open. Open. OPEN.
Darren: [turns box upside down] This is killing you more than its killing me. This is fun.
Me: You have to understand, the present is really more of a symbol.
Darren: [unwrapping. Slowly. VERY VERY SLOWLY] Um. [peering at top of box on open end] A box! No! A Kellogg’s box? Breakfast? Poptarts?
Me: Ah. No.
Darren: [scratches head and frowns] OH! You’re pregnant!
Me: [grinning and nodding]
Darren: So who did you call?
Me: Well, I thought you should be the first to know, being the father and all.
Darren: Well, when a woman is pregnant she either calls her mother or her best friend.
Me: …
Darren: So, how did this happen?*
Me: If you can’t remember, it must have been a good night.

Yeah. We’re gonna be great parents.

*Look kids, we are proof that It Only Takes Once. We are however, supposedly mature adults – or so everyone tells us – with income and good jobs. I always say, if you can’t be a good example, at least be a dire warning.

LOL

Posted on: September 13, 2008

Remember that $100 you got from the government to help with that twee carbon tax? Well take a peek at this article from the CBC:

The $100 cheques, which were meant to offset the impact of the province’s new carbon tax, were only supposed to be sent to residents currently living in B.C., but Hansen said roughly 20,000 were mistakenly mailed out to former British Columbians now living in other parts of the country.

Okay, now, laugh at this part:

Letters have been sent to the affected recipients asking them to return the dividend, and Hansen said anyone who does not may have the money automatically deducted from their next tax return.

Done laughing now?

Look, people, its not that difficult. All postal codes in BC begin with a “V”. When you’re printing the cheques, simply tell the program to print only the addresses with postal codes that begin with a “V”. Its a relatively simple “IF” statement.

Sure, they’re taking the money back – great. But what about all the original costs of printing? According to this article, $10 million was initially set aside for printing and mailing 3.4 million cheques. Lets see: $10 million divided by $3.4 million is about $2.94 (rough figures) per cheque for printing and mailing. 20,000 multipled by $2.94 is $58,800.

Sure, not a hell of a lot of money in the provincial budget, but lets look at this:

How many rent or mortgage payments is that?
How many car payments is that?
How much greening can you do on your house for that?
How many bus passes is that?

Etc.

Cross-posted at Wet Coast Women

I have spent the day surrounded by sheeples (really people, there’s a double door at the entrance to the train station – you don’t need to line up 40 deep in order to get inside and don’t yell at me for skipping the line when I go to open the other door) and my boobs hurt. A lot.

Just to let you know where I am right now.

One of the things I’ve been hearing a lot in the media is that there’s some idea of election exhaustion here in Canada. Not only are we approaching our 3rd election in 4 years, for the last year, we’ve been his with the US primaries and now the US election.

Amy over at BlogHers ACT Canada asks why we’re going to the polls – again and notes the National Post quotes the Prime Minister as saying “this Parliament at its useful end.” Yeah, the PM isn’t getting his way. I’ll agree with that.

I’d also say that the election would have happened anyways, and in short order.  I have to give some props to Stephen Harper for at least attempting to talk to the leaders of the other parties to get some sort of agreement. If Parliament had been recalled, eventually, the Conservative government would have been subjected to a confidence vote, and we’d be in the same place we are now.

Except that it’d be that much closer to Christmas – just like last time. When elections are close to major holidays, there is a decrease in the number of votes cast – which means fewer people have a say.

Amy, by the way, has an excellent synopsis on this post of the environmental standpoints of each of the parties (except the Bloc Quebecois of course).

At any rate, I’m not going to discuss the party platforms here. I linked all the parties on this post and they’re linked on Amy’s post noted above. I’ll leave it to you to read the platforms yourself and figure out how you’re going to vote on your own.

Because really, I don’t care how you vote. Just VOTE, dammit. Get out there. Your employer must give you 3 consecutive hours on election day to go vote if your hours of work do not otherwise allow it. That is time with pay.

Why don’t I care how you vote? Because of that nasty first past the post/concentration of votes in ridings thing I mentioned in an earlier post. I flip my vote all the time – I have voted Conservative, Liberal, NDP and once, even, the Marijuana Party (and then I got smart about one-issue parties. And stopped smoking pot).

So I flip my vote depending on the issues of the day. And here’s the thing: often, its the party with the most grass-roots issues that gets my vote. I guess I tend towards the grassroots side.

My dad didn’t vote for many years. He was jaded, disillusioned. And then in the last election, he registered to vote because he didn’t want the Conservatives to form a government. And that’s as good a reason as any.

The problem is, in democratic countries, we take the right to vote for granted. Ask anyone from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus or any of the other former Soviet countries – its not a given. Do not take it for granted.

Instead, see it as the blessing it is, and exercise that right, regardless of your degree of election exhaustion.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

– Sir Winston Churchill

Also posted at Wet Coast Women

Now that the election has been called, let’s get to the meat of the matter. This post is about the history of the Canadian federal parties.

1. The Parties and their places on the traditional political spectrum (links on titles go to party pages)

The Conservative Party of Canada

Current leader: Stephen Harper (outgoing Prime Minister) (you can follow him on twitter)
Place on the spectrum: right of centre
Key policy categories: sovereignty, leadership, environment, health care, lower taxes, child care, tackling crime, accountability.

The Green Party

Current Leader: Elizabeth May
Place on the spectrum: probably left of centre
Key policy categories: ecological wisdom, non-violence, social justice, participatory democracy, sustainability, respect for diversity.

Author’s Note: although the Green Party has never had an elected member of Parliament, they command a significant number of votes (but not in sufficient concentration to get a seat). Recently, a member of the Liberal party joined the Greens.

The Liberal Party of Canada

Current leader: Stephane Dion
Place on the spectrum: fluctuates; slightly left or right of centre depending on leadership and the issues of the day.
Key Policy categories: vaguely: leadership, economy, green shift (I think – that’s all I could find on the website)

The New Democratic Party of Canada

Current leader: Jack Layton (you can follow him on twitter)
Place on the spectrum: left.
Key policy categories: investing in children’s early years, cleaner environment, tackling global warming, affordable education/training, forestry industry renewal, improving public health care, fair immigration, manufacturing crisis, poverty.

There are, of course, innumerable other, smaller parties, but these are the main ones that all of Canada can vote for. And then there’s one more:

Le Bloc Quebecois

(because they only campaign in Quebec, the website is in French only)

Current leader: Gilles Duceppe
Place on the spectrum: Left of centre? Generally they’re viewed as a one-issue party, but share some values with social democrats.
Key policy categories: generally put, they have  a history of wanting sovereignty/independence for the province of Quebec; they stand for defending the history, points of view, rights and interests of Quebec and its residents.

Author’s note: The BQ doesn’t matter so much in terms of actually forming a government; they only campaign in Quebec so as I noted in the previous post the highest number of seats they could get is 75. However if they won all those seats, they could become the Official Opposition. More on this later.

So wow. That’s a bit of a clusterfuck isn’t it?

2. How did we get here?

For a long time, we trundled along quite merrily with two parties: Liberal and Conservative (note, these are the only two parties who have ever formed governments). In the 1950s, a group in the praries started a merge of the Canadian Labour Congress and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation; they became The New Party. Their grassroots attitude gathered enough votes to help force Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals into a minority government situation. They moved the motion that brought down Joe Clark’s Conservative government and later on supported Trudeau in bringing the Constitution home.

And we trundled along, again quite merrily for a number of years with 3 parties.

In 1986, there was a little conference in Vancouver on Canada’s Economic and Political Future. The next year, the Reform Party was launched as a voice for Western Canada. Like the NDP, they were grassroots and populist, but sat somewhat more right of centre than the conservatives.

In 1991, the Bloc Quebecois was formed as a response to the failure of Ottawa to deal with Quebecois identity (See: Meech Lake). They run only in Quebec.

(There is a point to this)

Following the failure of the Charlottetown Accord in 1992, the 1993 elections marked a turning point in Canadian politics. The Tories (Conservatives) imploded and exploded simultaneously under Kim Campbell, especially after the Chretien attack ads. They went from 169 seats down to 2.

At the same time, the Reform Party gained 52 seats, 51 of which were in the west, and the Bloc Quebecois (running only in Quebec) gained 54. The Liberals under Jean Chretien won 177 seats. 9 seats went to the NDP.

Under Canadian law, the party with the most seats after the party that forms a majority government becomes Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. But what do you do when a party that only represents one province wins the required number of seats, especially when its only 2 seats more than the third-place party?

Well, you invite the leader of the third-place party to live in Stornoway (residence of the leader of the official opposition), but you make the second-place party the official opposition (loyal is another matter entirely). This is a typically Canadian response to such a situation. By and large, the Reform party was allowed as much time during question period as the BQ and received almost similar funding.

What happened was Ottawa sat up and took notice, not only of Quebec, but of the idea that the West Wanted In. The technical term for the split is regionalism.

In 1997, Reform became the Official Opposition. In 2000, Reform was disbanded and became the Canadian Alliance; in 2003, the Canadian Alliance merged with the Conservative Party to become Canada’s New Conservatives. Stephen Harper was elected leader in 2004, and formed a minority government in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Liberals had been plagued with issues of their own. Long-time leader Jean Chretien resigned from politics; his successor was Paul Martin, the former Minister of Finance – somewhat popular, but he was under pressure from the federal Sponsorship Scandal. The Liberals formed a minority government in 2004, and were forced to water down their speech from the throne in order to stay in power. On November 28, 2005, the Liberals lost key support from the NDP and the government fell. The Governor General issued election writs for January 23, 2006.

Martin resigned party leadership shortly after, and Stephane Dion became the new leader after winning against Michael Ignatieff in a run-off ballot.

Author’s Opinion: Why the minority Liberal and Conservative governments? I think its simpler than people realize. Canadians were sick of scandal and gave Martin a chance to revamp the party. All of the other parties had reworked themselves and gotten rid of the old guard. The Liberal party did not do that, and has not done that – Dion is still a member of the old guard. The Liberals would do well to have a different leadership.

Canadians will go to the polls on October 14:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled the plug on his own minority government on Sunday, setting off a national election campaign that will send voters to the polls on Oct. 14 at a cost of about $300 million.

[insert panicky mental calculation of the number of parties vs. the number of weeks available to finish up that series of articles]

Election news update: The news services say the Prime Minister will take his symbolic walk to the Governor General’s residence and ask her to dissolve parliament on Sunday. Be ready to go to the polls on October 14.

Unless, of course, she refuses to dissolve parliament and creates a constitutional crisis.

Warning: this is quite long, so make sure you have a cup of coffee.

Before I start on this series, I should say: I’m not doing this to tell you how to vote or even influence your vote. Quite honestly, I live in BC; I don’t care how you vote. By the time we vote, the decision is already made. Also, I tend to flip my vote depending on how I feel, the issues of the day, and the alignment of the stars (KIDDING, people, KIDDING). Just vote, dammit. Have your say. I’m doing this because I think there isn’t a lot of education in Canada on How The System Actually Works. What it boils down to is this: Canadians don’t vote for people; we vote for parties. Whoever forms the government is dependent on the concentration of votes in each federal riding.

Pre-required reading: Vocabulary (definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online):

Plurality: a number greater than another b: an excess of votes over those cast for an opposing candidate c: a number of votes cast for a candidate in a contest of more than two candidates that is greater than the number cast for any other candidate but not more than half the total votes cast

Majority: the group or political party having the greater number of votes (as in a legislature)
Minority: a group having less than the number of votes necessary for control
Cabinet: a body of advisers of a head of state (2): a similar advisory council of a governor of a state or a mayor.
Prime Minister: the official head of a cabinet or ministry; especially : the chief executive of a parliamentary government.
Popular: uitable to the majority: as a: adapted to or indicative of the understanding and taste of the majority <a popular history of the war> b: suited to the means of the majority.
Power: possession of control, authority, or influence over others b: one having such power; specifically : a sovereign state c: a controlling group : establishment —often used in the phrase the powers that be
Influence: the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command b: corrupt interference with authority for personal gain4: the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways : sway5: one that exerts influence

Now, I assume most Canadians, Brits, and anyone else with a Parliamentary System of Government (as opposed to Presidential or hybrid or non-democratic), know something about this. Although, you’d be surprised. I spent today explaining to coworkers What A Minority Government Actually Means for Getting Things Done. So here you go.

The House of Commons (the main decision-making body and akin to the House of Representatives in the US) currently has 308 members; seats are assigned on the basis of population in the provinces. According to Wikipedia:

The House of Commons is composed of 308 members,[1] each of whom represents a single electoral district (also called a riding). Law requires that there be a minimum of 282 electoral districts; there are currently 308. Seats are distributed among the provinces in proportion to population, as determined by each decennial census, subject to the following exceptions made by the constitution. Firstly, the “senatorial clause” guarantees that each province will have at least as many Members of Parliament as Senators. Secondly, the “grandfather clause” guarantees each province has at least as many Members of Parliament now as it had in 1986. Finally, no province may lose more than fifteen per cent of its seats after a single decennial census.

What this means is populous provinces, specifically Ontario (106 seats), Quebec (75 seats), BC (36 seats) and to some extent Alberta (28 seats), have the largest number of seats. Between them Ontario and Quebec have a majority of the seats. By the time the election reaches the West Coast, due to the time change the election is decided. Because of this, awhile back a law was passed that news stations cannot publish vote results until the polls close in BC.

Fine and dandy, but if the polls close at 8pm in BC, at 8:00:02pm, the first results are already published from Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario. Sometimes Manitoba. And if there is a majority vote, then the election is decided.

Now here’s the kicker: a Member of Parliament does not have to get a majority is his/her riding in order to win the seat. They only have to get a plurality (the most) of votes. So if 1000 votes are cast in a riding, and Candidate A gets 200 votes, Candidate B gets 301 votes, and Candidate C gets 499 votes, Candidate C wins the seat.

With me so far?

The party that forms the government (Prime Minister – or “first among equals” – and Cabinet – other Members of Parliament who get a minister portfolio or Secretary position and are appointed by the Prime Minister) is usually the party with a majority of seats in Parliament (50% plus 1 seat) or the most (a plurality) of seats. As I stated in the previous post, the Governor General can appoint another party to become the government if he/she feels the party with the most seats is unable to Get Things Done.

Here’s the hard part: because of this system, the percentage of the popular vote (percentage of votes actually cast excluding spoiled ballots) required for a majority government is around 38%. Give or take a percentage or two.

Go ahead. Get yourself a drink (or something to smoke/eat/whatever) and go and reread that. Yes, fellow Canadians, that often means our government is not elected by a majority of individuals. Its all dependent on the concentration of votes in each riding, because the party that forms the government has the most seats in Parliament.

Generally. Like I said before, the Governor General can appoint whoever he/she likes to form the government. By convention, this is only done in the case when a single party does not get a majority of seats.

For example, if the Rhino Party gets 155 seats, it forms the government. And this is where it gets kind of fucked up.

Parties in Canada tend to tow (toe?) the party line. That means if the Rhino Party is in power, all Rhinos vote in favour of the legislation proposed by Cabinet. If the Rhino Party in Canada has 155 seats (a majority), the legislation is passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate for approval (usually a rubber-stamp deal), and then the Governor General for Royal Assent (a technicality due to Constitutional issues).

We trundled along quite merrily for a number of years (12? 14? something like that) with majority governments, which are considered stable because the government is guaranteed to stay in power. In Canada, this means that the government of the day still has to call elections but has up to 5 years to call said election. After 5 years of being in power, its a Constitutional requirement to have an election.

A few years back, Jean Chretien resigned from politics. There was a leadership convention for the Liberals and Paul Martin (former Minister of Finance) won the vote. More information on the various parties will be in future posts, however this is the key: at the next general election, the Liberal party ended up with a minority government.

So why does this matter?

In a minority government (a government with a plurality of seats), the government of the day must work with other parties in order to have legislation passed.

Let me repeat that: THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY MUST WORK WITH OTHER PARTIES IN ORDER TO HAVE LEGISLATION PASSED. This means that under a minority government, the government of the day must resign if they do not receive the confidence of the Parliament – that is, the Parliament must approve the bill (usually confined only to money or rights bills, unless the government of the day wishes to call it a confidence vote). In the late 1970’s Joe Clark became Prime Minister of a minority government and the government collapsed when he couldn’t get a budget passed because he refused to work with other parties.

I’ll get more into recent history because this is way too long already, but suffice it to say that the last two governments in Ottawa have been minority governments. We’ve been trundling along quite merrily with first a Liberal minority government, and now a Conservative one. Generally, the parties will play nicely together because at the end of the day the goals are the same – its the getting there they disagree on.

There’s not a huge reason for an election right now: there hasn’t been a confidence vote, however Stephen Harper met with the other leaders to see if something could be worked out. Apparently, it can’t. So its off to the polls.

Next up: Leaders, Parties and Politics, oh my!

Darren: What is with all these ads about the opposite side?

Me: Well, we get those too. You know the province buys ad space on TV.

Darren: Yeah, but that’s usually things like, “Licking power lines is bad.”

Me: What about all those BC 150 ads?

Darren: That’s STILL like telling us that “Licking power lines is bad.”

*crickets*


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