Thursday, June 26, 2014

Worth Reading - June 26, 2014

With Ontario's provincial election behind us much of the news in the province id dealing with the fallout. Kathleen Wynne has to build her new government while the opposition looks inward to figure out what went wrong. The bloodletting is more obvious in the Tory camp where Hudak's resignation was... accelerated. Meanwhile the NDP appears divided over whether to celebrate or castigate the leadership for the party's performance on June 12th. With that said, here's what I picked out for the week:

Jon Lorinc in Spacing says that there is no better time for Kathleen Wynne (OLP - Don Valley West) to act credibly on transit than right now. A related earlier piece by Jon Lorinc on how Wynne can begin a real plan to fund the transit expansion plan. 

City Lab pumps out a lot of great articles. This week there is one on how despite the growth in the size of American metropolitan areas that commute times have remained flat. People are willing to tolerate about a 60 minute commute. The question is how much they travel and what mode rather than the time involved. 

Peter McKay (CPC - Central Nova, NS), the Justice Minister, is doing a fantastic job at embarrassing himself and the government with his string of misogynistic remarks regarding judges and the role of mothers.  

Aaron Wherry provides more fodder for my chronic depression related to our national governing body's latest session

From the Ottawa Citizen, an argument against mandatory voting. It's an idea I've advocated for, but I also see the inherent issues with it. 

Martin Regg Cohn writes about the troubles facing Kathleen Wynne's new cabinet. It is certainly a daunting mandate. 

Kathleen Wynne unveiled her new cabinet

Steve Paikin lays out how he thinks the Ontario Liberals managed to win this election. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: The Campaign Manager by Catherine Shaw

Before I launch into the book review I wanted to say that June 22nd was the fourth anniversary of this blog. It is a beyond strange thing that I have kept it up for this long. I am honoured by those who continue to visit and those who discover it and take something away from it. Thank you for reading.

There is no easy answer to how to run/win an election. Most people who are interested in the process are either supported by sophisticated networks of volunteers and activists, or blunder through the process. Political parties provide convenient banners to rally behind, but in local elections in most municipalities there are no parties and candidates must build campaigns on their own. Even with parties most candidates stand largely on their own as the parliamentary system decentralizes politics during elections.

I purchased The Campaign Manager: Running and Winning Local Elections by Catherine Shaw for three reasons: one day I might be running a campaign; I want to better understand how to run campaigns; one day I want to run myself.

A useful guide for amateur pols.
There are tragically few resources on how to run an election. Most of the resources I have discovered are entirely inappropriate because they are entrenched in the American political system, or they are tragically out of date. Political campaigners are less likely to write books about their methods than become political consultants, I suppose.

Shaw focuses on small-scale elections where non-partisan or where party has limited influence. This creates a good parallel for the elections that are fought in Canada. In many contexts even though parties are not specifically involved voters can easily identify them or they have connections/endorsements from others. After reading the book I believe that this is a valuable resource for Canadians as well as Americans.

Shaw condenses many of the commonly accepted best practices in her book on Get Out the Vote (GOTV), voter identification, media relations, and provides dozens of practical samples for materials any campaign would need to produce such as call sheets, volunteer database or fund-raising forms.

As the title suggests this is a guide for campaign mangers and not candidates. Significant attention is given to identifying strong candidates and dealing with them. Elections/campaigns are deeply personal things and so it can be very challenging for candidates to separate their individual identities from the campaign they run and not view it as a personal referendum. Effective managers helps candidates win, but also help keep things in perspective.

Chapters in the book include information on precinct/poll analysis, building campaign teams, campaign brochures, volunteer organization, fundraising, lawn signs, targeting voters, dealing with media, candidates, issue-based campaigns, GOTV, and laying out the campaign plan. Shaw draws on her experience as a veteran politician in Oregon and her work on many campaigns for others.

The book can be quite dense and should be viewed as a guidebook or manual. It is not a particularly pleasurable read though Shaw sprinkles in anecdotes to reinforce her points. Still, the book is a resource and once read through will likely be used as a reference only.

During the last Ontario election and approaching the municipal elections I have recommended this book to friends and associates seeking office. It is a valuable starting point to help a prospective candidate to know what he/she needs to run for office. Even veterans of political campaigns may be missing the most obvious things when it comes to these matters. As a resource of combined materials The Campaign Manager is exceptional. While I believe there is ample room for a Canadian edition it is a great starting point for anyone looking to run. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Worth Reading – June 19, 2014

A lot of this week’s news reflects  the outcome of the Ontario provincial election.

From the Toronto Star, Martin Regg Cohn gives his take on the Liberals win, defying expectations

Some of the critics of Tim Hudak (PCPO – Niagara West – Glanbrook) suggest that the party has moved far to the right and away from the values of voters. 

Defeated Toronto New Democrats speak against Andrea Horwath (ONDP – Hamilton Centre) and the central campaign’s leadership.  

Marty Patriquin covers Nathalie Normandeau’s testimony. Normandeau is a former cabinet minister in Quebec firmly rooted in the Liberal corruption scandal in that province. 

Alice Funke has some fantastic analysis of the election. She suggests that the Ontario political map is changing. 

Andrew Coyne discusses the possibility of congestion/vehicle pricing in Vancouver

Steve Paikin writes that the Progressive Conservatives may have misjudged Ontario over the past 30 years with their move to the right. 

Moscow is investing $83 billion in its transit system. $83 billion...

From the TVO blog, some interesting tidbits from theelection

Max Temkin is a founder of Cards Against Humanity. He has some great ideas about creativity, work and entrepreneurship. He writes here about his new office space. In the same piece Temkin shares a link about not imitating the success of others but reimagining thepossibilities that I really like.               

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Electoral Autopsy: Dissecting the Ontario 2014 Election

At the start of the election I highlighted five things to look for. I figure that is a good place to start from.

I initially predicted that turnout would go up. I became pessimistic after speaking to family members and friends, but ultimately I was proven right. Voter turnout improved to over 50% again. The approximately 52% of the population who participated is refreshing, but should not be considered the beginning of a new trend, in my opinion. Turnout is still below the 2007 election level. We’ll see what 2018 has to show.

The only swing involved with the Progressive Conservatives was a universal rejection of the party. To my knowledge the Conservative vote share declined in every single riding, even Tory strongholds.

Third, did the Liberal voters come home? The improvement of the Liberal vote suggested that they did, at least in part. I feel that might be reflected in the turnout improvement and slip in the Conservative vote. It is difficult to say for reasons I will explore below.

The fourth question I raised was how would the ONDP vote do in Brampton. The results in Brampton were frankly shocking to me. The ONDP finished a strong second Brampton-Springdale, a virtual tie for second with the PCs in Brampton West, and Jagmeet Singh was re-elected in Bramalea-Gore-Malton. Given that Gurpreet Dhillon was intended for a by-election candidate it is difficult to say that the ONDP could get a stronger one for the next time around. However, Jagmeet Singh ran provincially after a narrow loss federally in 2011. Perhaps history will repeat itself. It would be a strange twist of fate if the red-blue seats of Brampton began flipping to orange.

The fifth point I made was about NDP support in Southwestern Ontario. More impressive than the NDP growth in Brampton was their surge of support in Southwestern Ontario. The party grabbed Windsor West from the Liberals, held onto their surprising by-election victories in London West and Kitchener-Waterloo and came very close in ridings like Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent-Essex.

The election results are confusing. While there are general trends certain seats stand out as strong outliers. The Liberal and NDP vote exploded upwards in some ridings, but not in others. Likewise the Conservatives ticked down somewhat in some and imploded entirely in others. Take ridings like Cambridge and Durham. The Tories won those ridings quite comfortably in 2011 but lost handily in this last election. Similarly the NDP blew the Tories out of the water in Oshawa. In many ways it might be right to say the PCs lost this election, not that the Liberals won. Their decline in the vote opened up the opportunity for a Liberal majority. 

Liberal support seemed anchored very firmly in the large cities: Toronto, Mississauga, Ottawa, Brampton and the GTA more generally. Their support spiked in those areas. The NDP did well in Brampton, Niagara, Southwestern Ontario and the North. Alice Funke on her blog suggested that the change in fortunes may be a symbol that the NDP have found ways to appeal to traditional Conservative voters in the working-class depressed areas of the province and medium to small sized cities. Liberals meanwhile are cleaning up in the affluent, relatively prosperous cities and suburbs. The Conservatives are left with the rural belts around the cities.

The vote percentage does not tell the story of the election. One must look at the results in the seats for trends and changes. It is unlikely that the next election will look much like this one. The province badly needs to redraw the riding boundaries. This may result in surprises. Toronto ridings may become more difficult for the ONDP to retake, but may make some in Brampton and southern Ontario more accessible. Redrawing will likely hurt the PCs until they rebuild inroads to the 905 and 416.

It was an exciting election. Congratulations and my deep respect to all the men and women who put their names forward. I’m sad I wasn’t there to see it in person.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Countdown to the Ontario Election and Prediction

In two days time Ontario residents will cast their ballots to help select members of the 41st Legislature. This is the first provincial election that I have missed and I am unable to cast a ballot this time around. I fear that turnout will plummet again. I had a pet theory that it would spike upwards now that Dalton McGuinty was gone and no longer dragging down the Liberal Party. However the scandals he left in his wake has mired the Liberals and will be perhaps the reason Kathleen Wynne (OLP – Don Valley West) will be unable to keep her government by Friday.

From friends and family back home the picture of this election is very muddled. I am not confident that the polls have adequately captured the moment and that we are not on the verge of a major upset. More on that below.

I have appreciated this campaign far more than the hollow, policy-less fare Ontarians were served in 2011. There are substantial ideas and divergent visions for the province. Tim Hudak’s (PCPO – Niagara West-Glanbrook) vision for the future of Ontario is no doubt a huge motivator for those on the left seeking to stop it. On the other hand many Ontarians cannot stomach the idea of returning the Liberals to power after so much mismanagement.

I think Liberal voters will be less likely to turn out to the polls, and the Tories will be able to get their older, more committed voters to the poll. The ONDP will split the difference. Whatever number of New Democrats were turned off from the orange campaign will be replaced sufficiently by disaffected Liberals.

I hope my Ontario readers go out and vote, managing to find a candidate that best meets their values. I hope serious men and women are able to meet at Queen’s Park to do the people’s business and tackle the serious problems that dog that province, and most of all I hope citizens can find ways to reengage with their politics.

Seat Prediction

Liberals – 39 (-9)
Progressive Conservatives – 48 (+11)
New Democrats – 20 (-1)
Greens - 0
Other - 0

My prediction suggests we will see a PC minority in Ontario, but it is unlikely that Hudak will find a willing partner on the opposition benches. It’s possible we may see a repeat of the 1985 election where a Tory minority was replaced by a Liberal-NDP coalition, but both parties have denied that option. It Premier Wynne resigns upon a defeat of her government the Liberals may passively support the Tories until a new one is chosen, as we have seen at the federal level.

Below are some of the ideas of which seats I think will flip to a different party. Some of them may seem very unlikely, which is entirely possible. However recent elections should teach us that outcomes of elections can be very unpredictable.

OLP à PCPO - Ottawa South, Ottawa West-Nepean, Ottawa-Orleans, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Scarborough-Guildwood, Scarborough-Agincourt, Willowdale, York Centre, Etobicoke Centre, Brant, Kitchen Centre

OLP à  ONDP - Windsor West

ONDP à OLP - Davenport, Trinity-Spadina

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Worth Reading - June 5, 2014

Eric Grenier of the 308 Blog has written a piece about the potential impact of the debate on the Ontario results.  

The Globe and Mail has put together a handy little tool to figure out who to vote for in the Ontario election, platform positions are outlined. 

Now for something completely different, Andrew Coyne advocates for the abolition of tipping

Tim Hudak (PCPO – Niagara West-Glanbrook) has taken a page from the federal Conservatives and has demonized the practice of coalitions. Of course, coalitions are entirely proper under out system, as Martin Regg Cohn reports. 

From the Globe and Mail, the ONDP and Andrea Horwath (ONDP – Hamilton Centre) are the biggest wildcards going forwardin the election. I’m inclined to agree.

Jon Lorinc in Spacing has written an extensive five-part series about the political games and mismanagement that resulted in the Scarborough Subway. It’s a scathing series that illustrates how politicians overrode the sense of their experts. Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.  Part 5

Speaker Andrew Scheer in the House of Commons is generally considered quite soft-spoken. Maclean’s has an interesting piece about his growing ire

The Atlantic proposes that perhaps the United States needs to hold a new constitutional convention to fix the errors of the present federal government. 

An article examining the paradox of young, educated people who are disengaged from politics

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Will Turnout Go Down in Ontario? – Fed Up, Angry Voters

When this election was called I had a pet theory that turnout would rise from the abysmal 49% because Dalton McGuinty (OLP – Ottawa South) would no longer be a factor and his unpopularity would not continue to weigh down the Liberal Party. I tend to be the most politically engaged of my family and friends. They often ask me about political matters and they provide me a personal focus group for life in my home province. I have noticed a disturbing trend.

Part of my interest in politics and government came from my parents. They are not particularly political but passed on the responsibility to vote and stay informed. For the first time that I can remember they are not sure if they can vote, as are other members of my family. It’s one thing to talk about the apathy of young voters who have never been engaged in the process, but when established tax-paying adults like my parents who care about their broader community entertain the idea of stepping away it suggests something has gone terribly wrong.

Members of my peer group are expressing similar sentiments. In 2011 they were willing to plug their noses and vote, but now... many of them seem less sure. Even the engaged in my life are pushing back.


From the group I spoke to here’s some of the explanations I am able to put up with.

Too Much Scandal

The Liberal scandals weigh heavily on the political psyche of the province of Ontario. The multiple billions spent on ill-advised decisions and politically-motivated schemes has sapped much of the good will for the Liberals, but from the political process in general. My social circle is full of natural Liberal voters, which is to say centrists and progressives. Teachers in particular have been friendly to the Liberal government (until recent years).

Lack of Alternatives

When I speak to people I first hear deep concern, frustration and anger about the scandals. Next I hear complaints about the alternatives. The talking point I hear most is the 100,000 jobs to be cut from the civil service, which disturbs and alarms them. The commitment by the Progressive Conservatives and their leader Tim Hudak (PCPO – Niagara West-Glanbrook) is just a symbol of the budget cutting intentions of that party. Arguably Ontario may need some cuts to deal with the disturbingly large deficit, but with many friends with families working in the greater civil service they are fearful. Not to mention the Harris years loom as a boogieman for many in Ontario, just as Bob Rae has. However, those who fear the Tories seem less able to morally justify returning the Liberals to power.

The ONDP has been a tough sell for many in Ontario since the Bob Rae years. My activist friends fear the ONDP have traded in their principles for populism – warranted or not. A handful of diehards I know are quietly sitting the election out. The NDP has a limited presence in many ridings in Ontario. Even if they were to do very well many seats are still likely out of reach for the party.

The Greens are a minor party. As much as I would like to see them represented in Queen’s Park they are long-shots in a riding and virtually impossible elsewhere.

Weak Policy

Policy matters. Vision matters. In 2011 Ontario experienced a campaign about virtually nothing. The policy debate this time around has revolved around the PC’s “One Million Jobs Plan” and various criticisms surrounding its numbers. The Liberals and NDP have revealed their own policy documents but as of yet there are no stand out policy issues that can be grasped. The Liberal’s proposed pension plan and the NDP’s school activities program are not exactly the type of things that drive people to the polling booths.

Candidates that Fail to Appeal

I often wonder how parties find the candidates for election. I participated once in the process as a member of a riding association, but hunting for candidates for the ONDP in Brampton is far different than the other parties, I am sure. I’ve spoken to friends and families in three different ridings. Looking at the candidates left them... wanting. When parties chose candidates to appeal to a particular ethnic group or special interest that you are not a member of the appeal seems hollow. And what if you do not believe in the quality of the candidate? Even the leaders could fall into this. If voters feel like they are being bought off with tax credits or other gimmicks and there is no trust there... well, why vote for them?


This election seems to be about trust and to a lesser degree about Ontario’s economy. Parties focus on the latter because it is what people say they want, but they do not trust parties to implement their promises, and, perhaps more damning, that it will make a difference. Ultimately I think my friends and family will end up voting. They will plug their noses and cast a ballot after determining which party/candidate they find the least objectionable. However if voters just like them decide not to cast their ballots in their thousands, I can hardly say that I could blame them.

I’d love to hear from you readers if you intend to vote.

Edit: I am hearing from friends that they are considering casting a vote for the Green Party. They want to vote and are very frustrated with the major parties. People are hungry for alternatives.