Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Strategic voting.

Executive Summary:

I do it, but there's a reason, so piss off already.

Fulsome Report:

Our system of representation is... well, it's better than the American system, for sure, but it could be better.

You've probably seen the CGP Grey's video talking about how idiotic the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system is; if not, it's definitely worth a look. But, if you're too lazy or your clicking-finger is broken, here's an even-briefer example:

Say the Purple Party gets 51% of the votes in every district, and the Yellow Party gets 49% of the votes -- a strong second-place showing, for sure, and a lot of people clearly want Yellow. But, since Yellow finished second every time, and Purple was FPTP every time, 51% of the voters get 100% of the seats, and their choice gets 100% of the power. All those Yellow voters, and there are a lot of 'em, get zero say in their government.

This is a pretty extreme situation, but y'know, it doesn't take too many votes in total, across the country, to tip an election one way or another. And that ain't right.

You have to ask yourself a question: do you compromise your ideals slightly and vote for who you wouldn't mind winning, or do you stick to your guns and take a chance that the one you really don't want to win, might win?

Our system could be worse, obviously; we have Elections Canada out there, drawing boundaries more-or-less fairly, rather than the idiotic gerrymandering they have in the US. (I still can't believe partisan committees get to redraw boundaries there. That is absolutely asinine.) But, you know, if the Cons could kneecap EC in any way, they probably would, given the chance.

I still haven't figured out whether having 3+1+1 major-ish parties makes this problem worse or better than the US system with its two-party system. But I'm sure as hell not going to feel guilty for voting strategically, until we bring in a proportional system. (For the record, I voted for proportional representation in Ontario a few years back, when it was put to a vote.)

To make things a little more specific:

My riding went Conservative in 2011, and I hate that prick. The Liberal candidate, who was once the MP, is a decent guy and I like him well enough. The federal Liberal party, well... I mean, we could do worse; ideally (for me), the Dippers win and Mulcair becomes the PM. But, in my riding, the NDP have practically zero chance of winning -- they're polling in the single-digits, which is very weird these days anywhere in the country -- and so the Liberals have the best chance of beating the Cons around here.

Jeez, how long is this election? Dammit.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Twenty years.

Since I'm too lazy to pull out a calendar from 1995 to determine exactly what date Labour Day fell on that year, I'll assume it's today.

On said holiday in 1995, my parents drove me down to Waterloo with a good chunk of my worldly possessions, and helped me move into residence at the University of Waterloo (Village 1, North 1, room 115).

Twenty fucking years ago.

I remember the day vividly.

Bright and sunny, warm but not too hot. We drove into the south entrance of campus, following hundreds of other identical cars filled with identical families doing the exact same thing we were. Halfway up the Ring Road on the left, frosh leaders poked their heads in and asked if I was in Math; I wasn't, thankfully (although I almost was, as I'd initially applied to the Applied Mathematics program instead of Physics).

We drove in through the driveway that pokes into V1 and parked on the grass, up on a slight hill. My parents and I carried armfuls of my stuff down the hill and into my room; I don't think they stuck around too long before heading off. Amongst my possessions was a toaster and a kettle, two things you're really not supposed to have in res (but, screw you, rules; besides, I never left them unattended).

After setting my stuff up, I went outside and joined a group of people from my house (North 1) for a demonstration which showed how to put a drunk, passed-out person in the Bacchus Position -- laying on their side with their one arm stuck out so they don't roll over onto their back and choke on their vomit and die.

One of the first people I met, aside from my roomate Mike (we didn't really have a lot in common, and so we didn't stay in touch much; I remember he was a billion times smarter than me and actually in Applied Math, a library at McMaster is named after his grandfather, and he was much quieter than I was), was Jon, who I remain friends with to this day. Jon was from Toronto, and seemed so much more worldly, more savvy with the ladies, and just so much more completely confident in himself than I was -- a small-town kid a bit dazzled and dazed by the whole experience.

Post-secondary education is a valuable institution, of course. But if I'd stayed at home and, say, commuted to Western every day, I wouldn't have had anywhere close to the same experience I had. There's something really valuable about stepping outside your comfort zone, going to a place where you know nobody (a couple of guys from my high school went to Waterloo as well, but we hardly saw each other), and just dunking yourself in. It's not so scary, though -- you're surrounded by people who are in the exact same situation as you are, and who are (probably) also jazzed about learning and experiencing new things.

The kids that I teach who are in grade 12 and are on the doorstep of the rest of their lives... well... I must admit, I'm a little envious of their position. They're about to discover this giant new world, full of people they never dreamt existed, and experiences they never thought they might have. It's a little scary, but it's mostly great -- like a lot of the best things in life.

But, there's a time and a place for everything, and for me that time has passed. I've learned from my experiences, grew as a person, and am now the amazing dude I am, sitting here on my couch, alternately typing this and taking sips of coffee.

Twenty years, though. Wow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's federal erection time.

I'm nutty about maps, and I dig politics.

So, when the good folks over at Three Hundred Eight put polls together -- much in the same way their Five Thirty Six friends south of the border do -- well, I gotta take a look. And, while I'm a big fan of charts, maps can tell you so much more about what's really going on.

I took the THE data for Ontario and coded each riding a 1 (sure thing, 75%+), a 2 (leaning, 60-74%) or a 3 (horse race, 50-59%) for each of the three parties; the Greens aren't anywhere close to a seat in Ontario, although they're pulling double-digits in Dufferin-Caledon. Then I grabbed some maps from Elections Canada, tweaked 'em so they'd be easier to edit, and snipped out four relevant parts of the province. I put the maps into the GIMP, and I bucket-filled to my heart's content; the graphic below is fairly self-explanatory.


If a riding was coded a 3, I put a dot representing the second-place party in the middle of it. London West was bizarre as it's actually a very close three-way race, with the Cons slightly ahead of the Dippers and the Libs, but top-to-bottom the Cons are only leading the Libs by two percentage points. Keep an eye on London West, people!

Anyway, without further ado... as of a few days ago, here's what we have.

1. Northern Ontario


Again, not exactly a huge surprise; this has been a big NDP stronghold for years now. It looks impressive, but really, in that map there's, what, nine ridings? C'mon.

2. Southeast Ontario


Again, not a giant surprise -- Ottawa is red and the country is blue. (It's a little tough to see here, but Ottawa Centre, Ed Broadbent's longtime riding, is solid orange.) The voters get gradually more conservative as you head outward from the city, with the suburban/exurban ridings (Kanata-Carleton to the west, Carleton to the south, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell to the east) as tossups. I imagine the indvidual polls within ridings exhibit the same pattern, too.

3. Southwest Ontario


The strongholds of labour -- Windsor and, to a lesser extent, Sarnia -- look like they'll go NDP. The rest of Alice Munro Country is more-or-less solid blue, with the wacky exceptions of London and Kitchener. Let's zoom in, shall we?


Holy Toledo! London-proper has one of everything -- fairly-solid Lib and NDP ridings, plus that nutty three-way race in London West, surrounded by blue. Then the five K-W-C ridings... from north to south there's solid-red Waterloo, the NDP-Lib tossup in Kitchener Centre, the Con-NDP tossups in Kitchener South-Hespeler and Cambridge, then the NDP-Con race in Cambridge. That's gonna be fun to watch as the weeks go by and the headlines continue to accrue. (The extreme northeast of that picture is Guelph, solid Liberal.)

4. Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area


Rural Ontarians don't want to admit it, but this is the real prize: the vote-soaked GTHA. Yikes, look at all those ridings! The seats are out there for the gettin'. Some observations:
  • Hamilton is insane for the NDP, as is downtown Toronto.
  • Immigrant-rich areas -- Missisauga, Etobicoke, northern Scarborough, Markham -- are all either solidly or leaning Liberal.
  • A really curious pair of ridings, right up the gut, pit large amounts of recent Jewish immigrants (Thornhill, almost the heaviest blue in the GTHA) against Markham-Thornhill (Chinese, amongst the most-solid red).
  • If the vote was held tomorrow, the 416 would be Conservative-free.
  • Scarborough Centre is narrowly NDP with the Libs right behind. Right below it is Scarborough Southwest, where ex-Toronto police chief Bill Blair is running; sorry, Bill, Dan Harris seems to be out in front.
  • Scarborough North, which is less Chinese and more South Asian, looks like a lock for Rathika Sitsabaiesan, who I consider to be the foxiest current MP. (It used to be Ruby Dhalla, out in Brampton somewhere; rumour has it she was in a Bollywood movie once.)
  • (Yes, I have a thing for South Asian women. Do I ever. Mindy Kaling, call me.)
  • My own riding, Don Valley West, which is one of the handful of 416 ridings currently held by a Conservative, is now almost a solid lock for the Liberals. More on that below, because I find this interesting.
So, Don Valley West.

Provincially, it's Kathleen Wynne's riding (although the provincial and federal ridings don't quite line up exactly like they used to), and she's won it solidly since defeating Harris-era scumbag David Turnbull back in 2003. She's well-liked in the area, as she really did rise up through the ranks as a parent activist (against Harris), school trustee, MPP backbencher, and then party leader/premier. This is a little surprising, as there are a lot of recent immigrants in neighbourhoods like Thorncliffe Park, and as the recent small-but-loud protests against the new health/sex-ed curriculum has shown, parts of this community can be very socially-conservative... nevermind the fact that she's openly gay.

Federally, it was Liberal forever, with John Godfrey -- he was pretty far-left in the Liberal caucus -- before he stepped aside to run a hoity-toity private school in the area. (An incident occurred at the school which involved Godfrey and my former principal who became the principal there, with some not-so-savoury allegations of racism on the part of the school's administration. I'm sure you can look this up.)

Succeeding Godfrey was United Church minister and, coincidentally enough, also-openly-gay Rob Oliphant. I like Rob, and I'll probably vote for him again in October, as I voted for him back in 2011... when he lost the riding by 311 votes to local car dealer, ultra-conservative Conservative John Carmichael. This fucker is the reason why I won't spend a god damn red cent at City Chevrolet. Apparently the only thing of note he's done in the Commons is introduced some bill that allows people to fly the Canadian flag... um... fly the Canadian flag, or some other rah-rah patriotic bullshit that HarperCo eats up for breakfast. Who the hell cares? This guy's a douche.

And it looks like the douche is about to go, as Oliphant's leading him 49-33 in the polls right now. (Sorry, Dippers, I don't think you'll ever get DVW.)

Yeah, I know the Liberals supported Bill C-51, and I'm really not happy about that. If Oliphant gets elected, I'm going to write to him and ask him to outline what he personally thinks about it... but, until then, I have to vote strategically here, and keep an eye on the national polls (and possibly talks of a NDP/Liberal coalition or, possibly more likely, Ontario-in-the-'80s-style accord).

Before you jump down my throat, though... I've said it before, and I'll say it again: in a flawed, first-past-the-post system of ridiculousness, I have to vote strategically. If we manage to get a sensible proportional-representation type of system, then clearly I'd vote for who I think the best candidate/party is. But since we don't have that, strategic voting is an entirely defensible practice.

In the end, of course, the polls are pointing towards a minority of some stripe, possibly led by the NDP (!). If a Conservative minority gets in, you'd better believe the NDP and Libs would vote down the first confidence motion, and the government would fall; I have a pretty good feeling that GG "Diamond" Dave Johnston would ask Tom Mulcair to have a stab at forming a government, instead of triggering another election immediately. And, if Justin Trudeau knows what's good for him, he'd partner-up with the Dippers in no time flat.

So, in conclusion... keep those shitty Mike Duffy headlines coming, bloodsucking media. Go in for the kill!