Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How Policy Debates Should be Covered

Anyone who isn't paying attention to The Globe and Mail's Economy Lab is missing out.

A group of informed, thoroughly even-handed, economists give their thoughts on policy ideas and general economics issues. The media likes to present economics as a Conservative discipline, firmly neo-liberal in every way. It isn't. Since Adam Smith, practitioners have recognised the faults and short-comings of the market. Unfortunately, most of this debate takes place under the noise generated from liberal "think tanks" that represent most of the exposure that the general public get to what is assumed to be academic consensus in the field.

True, the approach is thoroughly technocratic, and comes with the assumptions and measurements that mainstream economics is based on and concerned with. Nonetheless, the Economy Lab shines some light on the crazy world of campaign policy promises and is worth a look.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Two Campaigns

So we're into it now, and we can already see how it's going to be. Ignatieff's Liberals are going to try some good old-fashioned mass politics with big crowds, plenty of energy, and a focus on the headliner. Team Harper will approach the media with open scorn, stay firmly in friendly territory, and focus on the shadow campaign. While the Liberals try for headlines and media face time, the CPC is focused on specific voters listening for that one thing that will bring them onside. We've got fear mongering and citizenship issues with the new Canadian vote. Today he grabs a certain segment of the suburban vote with income-splitting (despite it being a non-policy, this is huge, there are more than a few people who have been wanting this for a long time).

There's nothing new here. Expect more easy-to-understand, headline grabbing, horrible policy from the CPC as we move on. Expect good policy with a limited audience from the Liberals.

Too early to call it obviously, but the Liberals had to do something specific to fight the CPC and all we're hearing right now is that their platform is middle-of-the-road and cheap, and even that will get ripped to shreds given that they're wrong-footed on the potential savings from CIT.

The only question for me now is whether I just stick with UK media for the rest of the election or keep watching, hoping against hope that the Liberals actually know what they're doing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Laugh from the Past

Gloomy Monday? This ought to brighten your day.

Sections I and III are especially worth a read.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Diary of a Part-time Monk

Here's something worth keeping an eye on.

Diary of a Part-time Monk chronicles the journey of a fellow who has committed to fasting on nothing but doppelbock and water for Lent. For those who don't know what doppelbock is, go pick up a bottle of Paulaner Salvator. It's a strong, malty beer from Germany. The fast is rooted in the medieval practice of German monks.

After 4 days he has lost 10 pounds, so I'm guessing it won't go the whole way, but here's hoping!

On a related note, Spring Beer Release is out in Ontario. Look out for Tree Double Hophead in particular.

Thanks Doris!

In all seriousness, I wish Stockwell Day nothing but the best in his life after politics and thank him for his public service. I disagree with his politics, but everyone I know with any connection to government in Ottawa has a tremendous amount of respect for him. This includes every public servant I've ever spoken to who has worked in one of his departments. By all accounts, a capable and incredibly curteous boss. Big loss of talent in a very shallow pool.

EDIT: The above shouldn't be taken as agreement with anything he did while involved in provincial politics or his personal views, it's simply acknowledging that he was a capable administrator.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why Wait?

That seems to be the question that should be asked about the electoral calculations. The media seems to be focused on "Why would they?". Pundits seem to, for the most part, fall into the "Liberals don't want an election" camp, or the "Liberals do want an election and they're nuts for it" camp.

Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells touch on my thoughts in their latest podcast, apparently the Liberal braintrust's thoughts as well. The simple fact of the matter is that outside of an election campaign Conservatives are able to, and do, saturate Canadian media with partisan advertising using public money. Their sleaziness in so-doing is something to behold, and we've had the chance to do just that over the past couple weeks. This certainly won't get better after the next budget, why would it?

Every day we wait until an election is a day that the CPC gets to play the game with an advantage. It's especially rough on Ignatieff who most Canadians, still, have not been exposed to outside of the odd media narrative that has been created for him.

Like Steve V, I have a bit of hope for a strong showing by the LPC in the next election, but that doesn't matter. What does matter is that it's not going to get any easier for them.

Monday, March 7, 2011

An Election About Democracy

So there are rumblings that a spring election wouldn't end up being about corporate tax cuts and fighter jets after all. Marlene Jenning's has suggested a non-confidence vote might be in the cards, prompting an election about democratic themes, like a lack of transparency. Music to the ears for those of us concerned about such things, but I think it's pretty well accepted that Canadians couldn't care less. If lack of transparency and unaccountability got Canadians excited the CPC wouldn't be flirting with a majority. "Oh but the Conservatives got elected on a platform of open government!" some might claim. No, they didn't, they got elected on a tough-on-crime and GST cutting platform, Liberal corruption, and western parochialism. They'll run the next election the same way, with an unhealthy amount of Iggy and elite-bashing thrown in. So, if the Liberals want any chance of improving their seat count they need to beat the Cons on policy. They can't do that with fuzzy rhetoric about democratic values. Even the policies Ignatieff has already talked about won't do the job. They need something serious and big that monopolises election coverage. I have no idea what that is. If I had my druthers it would be some sort of move towards a PR system, that would be a complete game changer, and a serious punch to the electoral stomach of the NDP (for this election). Doubt it will happen though, Liberal partisans still think they can form a majority government at some point. They can't. Canada's cartel system isn't working anymore and someone needs to break it open.

Also, Iggy's education platform is a nice thought, but a non-starter.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Harper Government

Civil servants were informed that the Government of Canada no longer exists. It's the Harper Government please.

Not much to say about that is there?