Monday, October 09, 2017

Good news coming on electoral reform says Andrew Coyne

In a thoughtful article Coyne ranges over the positive news springing up at levels below the federal level, regarding changes to our undemocratic first past the post electoral system (the one that PM Trudeau favours, given his decision to walk away from his campaign promise to end it).

Ontario is showing political and democratic leadership, starting with optional changes for municipal elections:

Ontario has passed legislation allowing the province’s municipalities, if they choose, to use ranked ballots for their elections: earlier this year, London became the first to take them up on it, while Kingston will hold a referendum on the idea in 2018. This isn’t proportional representation: it’s still one member per district, winner-take-all, rather than the sharing of representation among several members on which PR is based. But it’s something other than the status quo.

And in BC, with the conservative, money-grubbing Liberal Party thrown out of power and fresh faces in the Legislature, a referendum with a better than even chance of passing will be held next year:

With the coming to power of the NDP, however, the issue is back on the table: both the NDP and the Green Party, on whose support it depends, had made proportional representation part of their election platforms. Refreshingly, the government may even keep its promise — I take nothing for granted — with a referendum now scheduled for November of next year. 

Unlike the two previous referendums, a majority of 50 per cent plus one will be sufficient. 

Another key difference: this time the government will be campaigning in favour of reform.

That still leaves much to be decided: how many questions to ask and what kind; what sort of reform proposals to put on the ballot, and how many; and so forth.

Let’s hope three things take place within months:

First, that the Ontario model of letting local governments choose more democratic systems of election town and city members, spreads to other provinces, including BC.

Second, that the Ontario government either hold a referendum similar to the one planned for BC, or  change its own laws so that elections to the provincial legislature become more democratic.

Third, that Canadians take advantage of the opportunities becoming available by forming groups to vote for candidates for city and provincial governments who will adopt the new democratic methods of electing representatives.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Brexit: How's this for framing?


This is going to hurt PM May's government, and the opposition framing of the issue is brilliant:

Davis himself struck an emollient tone on Thursday, seeking to reassure MPs about the scope of the so-called Henry VIII powers, which will allow ministers to make changes to any laws necessary to achieve Brexit – and for two years afterwards.

Read the rest of the tussle here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Trump: The asymmetric revolutionary warrior

Asymmetric Beaver

Why are Americans reeling in dismay over the state of politics? Why is the American media locked into total disbelief every day? What has happened?

A revolution.

Donald Trump is President, the result of a campaign that was totally different from any other; and is governing in a manner that is different from any previous president.

To understand Trump, read thisarticle; here’s the gist:

Donald Trump is revolutionary in that he not only has evolved the use of those same tools, but because he has flouted the rules of engagement. Trump has been engaged in asymmetric warfare from the very beginning. His detractors detest him for it. His supporters relish it.

We see it in how he governs. He declares for reelection within days of assuming office. He opens the White House press corps to blatant propagandists. He credits the fired FBI director when it suits him, disparages him when it doesn’t, and refers to any media report that doesn’t fit his narrative as “fake news.”

Why? Well, why not? Traditionalists wag tongues. Trump cackles and holds rallies. Asymmetrically.

Like asymmetric warriors throughout history, Trump doesn’t give a whit about the institutions at work or the normal rules of engagement. He has thereby created advantage from disadvantage. It’s not just the Democrats who are caught flat-footed. The establishment GOP candidates who had all the right credentials, funders and staffing got their clocks cleaned because they failed to adapt to the changing landscape (See, for example, Jeb Bush).

Trump is a distrupter, just like Google, Amazon, Uber etc.

Disrupters disrupt.

Chaos results as past patterns are shattered and competitors nonplussed.

The jury is out as to whether most disrupters will survive; they might in turn be pushed aside by other disrupters.

But if the turmoil in Washington puzzles you, take one step back, shed your traditional prism, and look at events there through a new prism: your disrupter prism.

Think Amazon when you try to understand what The Donald is doing.

It helps.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why UK’s PM May won’t last 3 months

The UK election was a disaster for Theresa May. She wanted a strong majority (40+ seats) to allow her to cope with a handful or more of dissenting Tory MPs in the House, and secondarily (and a far less important reason) to send a message to the EU that the House strongly supported her hard Brexit stance.

And she wanted her tenure as prime minister to be legitimate in the sense that she had won an election and not just filled a vacant spot when Cameron fell on his sword.

Now she needs 324 seats to pass confidence bills (mostly financial ones) and she only won 318. There are 4 seats won by MPs who don’t take their seats in the House and therefore don’t vote, so she does not need 326 seats (half of 650 plus 1).

So she turned to a right wing party firmly rooted in the past and in northern Ireland, the DUP.  They have 10 seats which with her 318 put her at 328, 4 more than she needs.

But her hold on the Tory party will splinter within months.

Why? Because the DUP do not agree with May’s hard brexit negotiation posture:

She has been forced to cobble together a minority government with support of the Democratic Unionists, a small party based in Northern Ireland that won 10 seats and doesn’t support her hard-Brexit strategy. She also has to face a rejuvenated Labour Party under Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who picked up 31 extra seats and also firmly rejects her Brexit plans.

As soon as questions arise in the House regarding the negotiation position of May, she can expect the DUP to disagree with a hard exit policy. If she is forced to rely on them and has to trim her hard exist policy, this will lead a big enough group of hard exit Tory MP supporters to break from her, and she will lose the vote.

And she cannot expect either the LibDems or Labour to support her hard Brexit stance.
Paul Waldie has summarized this sword of Damocles’ vary aptly (my bolding):

Most analysts doubt the Tory-DUP alliance will last long and many say Ms. May will have to abandon her hard-Brexit stand and seek compromise. And that could lead to years of turmoil as Britain faces the constant threat of the government collapsing just as it negotiates Brexit with the EU.

“At any point a tiny number of either Conservatives or Democratic Unionist MPs could say ‘we won’t put up with this’ on anything that happens,” said Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics. “That’s exactly why she wanted a majority, so she wouldn’t be at risk of small groups within Parliament undermining her capacity to govern.”

Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, said on Friday that her party will work with Ms. May but won’t accept her Brexit terms.

“No one wants to see a hard Brexit; what we want to see is a workable plan to leave the European Union,” Ms. Foster said.

She is mindful that a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU during last year’s Brexit referendum and there are fears in the province that Brexit could lead to the return of a hard border with Ireland. The border was eliminated as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the Troubles. Business leaders and economists say any return of a frontier would be devastating ...

So that leads back to Corbyn and his Labour Party.

And their task is very simple: to engineer a vote of confidence in May’s hard Brexit stance so that her majority dissolves. The trick will be to make such a vote linked to a financial vote, so that it becomes a confidence vote that could bring the government down, and that would require the DUP to support May’s hard Brexit position.

Is the Labour Party bright enough to engineer such a fall?

Methinks they are.

Just look at their brilliant moves to capture and then motivate hundreds of thousands of young people to turn out and vote for them.

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