Sunday, December 25, 2005

Election Promises

So we made it to the half-way point in the election and it's too close to call. Liberals and Conservatives are within striking distance of each other. What does it mean if you feel you must campaign between Christmas and New Year's? Desparation or a strong push to a win?

Even though it seems that not everyone will take the complete week between Christmas and New Year's off, at least there won't be any campaigning on December 25th. Whatever will the politicians do without an audience? Perhaps they can look through some historical election promises to generate ideas for the next half of the election.

My personal favorite source is the Rhino Party. Now those were promises. Not everyone may be familiar with them since they disbanded in 1993, but not before they left us with some gems; promises that had some meaning.

There was the ever popular promise, if elected, to repeal the law of gravity. No fence sitting or free votes, just unadulterated straight to the point electioneering.

They had promises for every aspect of voter concern. For education, they promised to provide access to higher education for everyone by building taller schools. They wanted to abolish the environment because it was too hard to keep clean.

What about make work programs? Well, if elected, they would count the Thousand Islands to make sure they were all there. They would move the Rocky Mountains one meter west and bring Montreal and Toronto closer together, one hundred kilometers closer to be precise.

Their popularity peaked in the 1980 election when they received one percent of the popular vote. For more of their election promises check out
this site.

Happy Holidays to all and Best Wishes for the New Year. Even though the politicians won't take a break we will. Back in 2006.

Election Tracker

Friday, December 23, 2005

Earning Your Keep

Are you one of those people that believe politicians don't accomplish much? Have you ever wondered what your MPs are doing to earn the salaries they do (at least $144,000)? Well wonder no longer. There's a website called "How'd They Vote?: A Resource For Political Accountability" where you can see all sorts of information on the activities of every MP.

If you don't know who your MP was from the last election, they provide an interactive map of Canada where you can click on your province and get a list of everyone that was elected from that province. The only drawback is that it does require that you know at least what electoral district you belong to. If you don't know that, fear not. Most people probably don't. Elections Canada has conveniently provided a site where you can
find your electoral district simply by entering your postal code.

On the
"How'd They Vote?" site you'll find a convenient compilation of all the quotes, number of words spoken and voting history of each MP as well as all the Bills that were debated. If you go to the "MP Statistics" site, just click on the arrows for the column that interests you to have the data sorted in ascending or descending order.

For example, Paul Martin is listed as having spoken only 44,551 words in the last Parliament as opposed to the chattiest MP in the House, Paul Szobo of the Liberals, who is credited with 154,683 words. Check out how much your MP had to say, what they said, and how they voted on each Bill.

It's interesting to see that the Conservatives as a group are a relatively quiet bunch. Only one member appears in the top ten list of words spoken in the House of Parliament and he's at number eight.

Sometimes it's not how much you have to say that matters. Perhaps they're just succinct and to the point? Politicians succinct and to the point? What kind of politicians are they anyway?

Another question that may be keeping you up at night is how tech savvy is your party anyway? Well you can get that answered as well. Click on "MP Websites" to get statistics on website usage by each party, province, and MP. Who new that 60% of BLOC MPs didn't have a website? Conservatives have the greatest presence on the internet with 97% of their MPs having a website.

For more MP and political party trivia go see for yourself at
"How'd They Vote?"

Earn More Money!

Have you spent too much money for the holidays? Feeling just a little short? What to do? What to do? Thank goodness it's an election year and they're hiring.

The last election cost us over $260 million and this one won't be much cheaper. Why not get a piece of the action? You can work for either a political party, one of the electoral district associations, or directly for Elections Canada.

Start your search by going to
this site and clicking on the options shown. You can fill out the online form provided by Elections Canada if you want to work for them directly or find the contact information for the party of your choice.

Good luck in your search.

Election Tracker

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Dating Game

Doesn't the new debate format remind you of "The Dating Game"?

"Leader #1, how would you describe yourself?"

"Leader #2, same question. "

"Leader #3, given the chance, what would you do to convince me that you're the man for me?"

Forget about discussing the content of the debates since not much happened and none of it will matter when phase two of the campaign begins in January. Let's address what everyone is eager to examine in detail - the format.

Debate: (n) is defined by Oxford as "a formal discussion in a public meeting or legislature, in which opposing arguments are presented".

Technically, the new format fits within the definition. A selection of voters were asked to videotape their questions. The tape was played for the leaders and they were given an opportunity to answer. A moderator could add to the question if they wished. Hardly a traditional debate format but it worked in a certain sense.

Viewers at least got to clearly hear each leader recite what's available on their website, contrary to the debates of the last election where we were essentially treated to a shout-off. The best part of this year's debates was the time limits which were strictly enforced. Speaker's microphones were cut off in mid-sentence although if you listened carefully you could still hear the last part of their explanations presumably picked up by the moderator's microphone.

Not So Easy

Debate organizers are faced with a tricky problem. Here are just some of the issues:

  • Make the debates relevant to voters (ie. Shorter)
  • Prevent a live audience from turning the debate into a circus (This isn't a rally.)
  • Design pretty podiums (See whether the candidates could think on their feet)
  • Avoid shouting matches between candidates (That's only appropriate in the House of Commons)
  • Ensure that candidates can get their message across (Why waste money on commercials?)
  • Get all parties to agree to a format (that each party thinks is best for their candidate)
  • Appease the media (with at least the hope that a candidate makes a potentially fatal mistake or lands a knockout punch against another candidate.)

    Interviewed later, many of the questioners were dissatisfied with the leader's answers. Here's a typical example to illustrate their frustration:

    "Thank you for that very interesting question. Before answering it I would like to briefly mention that "insert candidates favorite issue or other redirection trick here" ...

    Journalists were luke warm on the format and viewership was down by half from the previous election.

    Tweaking the Format

    What's a voter to do? Let's see if the gameshow model of debate organization has any further solutions to offer us.

    First of all, during the debate, have the questioner decide whether a leader answered the question or not. This may not prevent a leader from skating around an issue but at least the viewers would be aware in real time that it was happening. Perhaps installing one of those gameshow counters in front of every podium and awarding a point for a question answered appropriately would help.

    Why not go one step further? Instead of giving all the power to the questioner, equip the studio audience with a real-time voting device and have the results instantly appear like they do in "Who wants to be a millionaire?" Audience, its time to vote.

    How about introducing a lightning round where more questions are asked and less time is provided for answers. Let's see how well they think on their feet. Give voters at least a glimpse of the real character of the next prime minister.

    Remember the movie "Quiz Show"? It told the story of the scandal surrounding the game show
    "Twenty One". It provides the genesis for another debate format improvement.

    What about putting each candidate in a sound-proof booth. They would only hear whatever question was directed at them and that would be the only time they could answer. They wouldn't hear what the other candidates had to say and would be faced with a classic
    "prisoner's dilemma". Are the other candidates skating or answering? Are they attacking someone or sticking to the issues? Wouldn't that make for an interesting debate?

    Will it ever happen? Probably not. But at least it's worth debating it.

    Election Tracker

  • Friday, December 16, 2005

    Democracy At Work

    As we predicted, the first debate, or should we say "gang press conference", was essentially a non-event. No controversy, no knockout punches, though it is nice to see that all the major party leaders are functionally bilingual. Trudeau would be proud.

    One leader that didn't get his own podium was Jim Harris. The Green Party has been trying to rally support and is hosting a petition on their site to get as many voters as possible to register their displeasure with the current state of affairs.

    If you feel that four leaders "debating" simply aren't enough, and would like to see at least five, then you can voice your concerns by signing the
    Green Party Petition. There may still be time for a change concerning the last two debate formats - but forget about Vancouver. Five debaters really is manageable. Remember the US Democratic Primaries? They had a dozen.

    More Petitions

    These days, casting a vote isn't enough of a statement. You can answer polling questions but who has the time? What this election campaign needs is more petitions.

    Remember the Liberal's slip of the tongue on beer and popcorn? Stephen Janke certainly does. He launched a petition calling for Paul Martin to clarify his position on beer, popcorn, and the spending habits of Canadian families. Voters responded. Over three thousand people, and counting, are mad as hell and are not going to take it any more.

    If you also demand clarification on the Liberal position then consider signing the Kids Not Beer petition. Coming at the issue from a different perspective, Rick Mercer launched his own Beer Not Kids petition. You'll be pleased to know that both petitions are doing well. Democracy at work.

    A Petition For Us All

    Not to be outdone, CanadaElection2006 has launched its own petition. This one potentially affects everyone. If you were hoping that the election would only be called in the New Year or if you just need a little break from the campaign rhetoric then this petition is for you. It calls for a
    Pause in the Federal Election, so that everyone can relax during the holidays, take a break, and get back into the election process after New Year's. Send the leaders a strong message by signing our Pause the Federal Election petition.

    Show the world that Canadian style democracy works and that "The People" will be heard.

    Election Tracker

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    The NOTA Party

    Many voters, when asked who they prefer, are quick to respond with "none of the above". Ultimately, when they do cast their vote, it's for the least offensive option rather than someone they really believe in.

    The actual turnout by eligible voters was only 61% in the last election. That means nearly four out of every ten voters couldn't even be bothered to go vote. Add to these voters the people who aren't happy with their choices and you start to see that a hell of a lot of people aren't pleased. Given the number of
    options voters do have, something is missing.

    Why not have a "none of the above" (NOTA) option on the ballot? The demand is clearly there. What would it mean to the electoral process? If 155 ridings or more chose "none of the above" as their majority option we'd have a ruling party of empty seats. Wouldn't that be silly? Would it? At least it would save money. What about the people who are always calling for less government? Well there you go. You asked for it you got it.

    Implementing the NOTA Option

    Here are some suggestions for a more practical approach to the NOTA option. Taxpayers already give $1.75 to a party annually for every vote that party receives. If a NOTA option was included on the ballot we could mandate that the same money be allocated to that option and earmarked for charity, medical research, etc. This would potentially "incentivize" citizens to get involved and vote.

    Additionally, other incentives could be adopted. Perhaps, any candidate that receives fewer votes than the NOTA option would not get their registration fees and expenses covered.
    But, what happens in the case where the NOTA option receives the majority of the votes in an electoral district? Who represents the district then?

    Clearly, the voters can make a statement with the NOTA option. How else do you convince the parties that their choice for the district is perhaps not a suitable one? Can you prevent the same candidates from running again in a bi-election? Why should we let them continue to torment the voters?

    The Green Party

    Speaking about "none of the above" options, the Green Party is recieving some much needed publicity as a result of being left out of the debates. Media outlets, perhaps feeling a little guilty, are devoting time to them during this quiet pre-debate period.

    Although it is clear that they are getting increased voter acceptance, one has to wonder where this will lead. The criticism is that they are a one issue party. True, the environment is important and many people are concerned but what is a voter saying by casting their ballot for the Green Party? They are dissatisfied with the treatment of this one issue and want some attention paid to it?

    Imagine waking up the morning after the election and seeing that the Green Party has formed the next government. Can everything be run through the perspective of the environment? Long before that happens, the major parties will adopt a stronger environmental platform in an opportunistic attempt to grab these voters.

    Don't get us wrong. We are not against the environment or the Green Party at all. It just seems that it's more of a lobby group than a potential candidate for running this country. With the increasing fragmentation of the electoral process in Canada, we'll probably be seeing a Red Party (Forcefully Supporting Health Care Issues), a Khaki Party (Increased Defense For a Stronger Canada), and the Book Party (Education is Our Future).

    In this age of infinite choice, can you think of any other Parties we're missing?

    Election Tracker

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    The Lull Before the Lull

    We're officially in the lull before the lull before the storm period of the election. The leaders are preparing themselves for the debates on Thursday and Friday and slowly heading towards Vancouver. Already election activity isn't a top news item as things wind down for the holidays. For you die-hard political junkies, or if you're just bored at work, grab a beer, make some pop-corn and get your election fix here.

    Where's the Party?

    How many Parties are officially running in this election? If you said three your probably not from Quebec and forgot about the Bloc. Four you say? Just like the debate participants and broadcasters you forgot the Green Party.

    Actually, believe it or not, there are thirteen Parties registered for this election. Here's where you can find the tried and true options as well as some more exotic selections if you're desparately searching for a change. Just click on the name.

  • Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada

  • Bloc Québécois

  • Canadian Action Party

  • Christian Heritage Party

  • Communist Party

  • Conservative Party

  • Green Party

  • Liberal Party

  • Libertarian Party

  • Marijuana Party

  • Marxist-Leninist Party

  • New Democratic Party

  • Progressive Canadian Party

  • If that's not enough for you, here are a few links to some sites that provide tables of key election issues and where the major parties stand on them.

  • CTV Election Issues Table

  • Globe and Mail Elections Issue Table

  • CBC Election Issues List

    Still need more? Review our archives and reminisce.

    Election Tracker

  • Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Vote Getting

    Buy My Vote

    Last week a Sherbrooke man put his vote up for sale on eBay. The man reasoned that if the Liberals could try to buy votes in Quebec then why couldn't he sell his? He had a bid of over $7.00 before Elections Canada got wind of it and asked eBay to withdraw the auction. It's illegal to buy and sell votes in Canada. Actually, I think you can only rent them.

    Your Vote Counts

    Think you've never made a contribution to a political party? Think again. A few years ago Canada implemented a system whereby political parties get $1.75/year for every vote they receive provided that they exceed 2% of the cast ballots. Assuming an election is held every 4 years your vote is worth $7.00. More like $3.50 given the recent fondness we've developed for minority governments.

    To give you an idea of what that means, here are the amounts the parties received last year:

    • Bloc Quebecois $3.1 Million
    • Conservatives $7.3 Million
    • Green Party $1.1 Million
    • Liberals $9.1 Million
    • NDP $3.9 Million

    For the Green Party it was a windfall. With just 4.3% of the vote they were finally able to get some serious funding to run an election campaign.

    Money Making Opportunity

    That brings us to this idea. Why not start your own political party? Let's look at the numbers. Total votes cast in the last election was 13,564,702. Two percent of that is about 275,000. At $1.75 per vote your party could get $475,000 annually. Even taking out expenses, it is still a decent chunk of change to play with.

    How do you get these votes? Start with a popular, although not necessarily practical, platform. Cherry pick the key hot button issues then pander, pander, pander. Unethical you say? Everyone else is doing it? The kicker is that you won't actually be forming a government so you can promise anything you want.

    There are 308 ridings in Canada. Running a candidate in less than half of them and getting just 2000 votes in each riding will comfortably put you over 2%.

    Think about it. Voters want change. The way things are going, elections may be held every two years in Canada. Sounds like a growth industry.

    For the Less Ambitious

    If all this sounds too ambitious why not run as an Independent? It costs $1000 to register and Elections Canada reimburses your fee and half your expenses providing you make a serious go of it.

    "Why bother?" you ask. An elected MPs salary is $144,000 per year.

    Let's all practice. "If elected I promise to ...."

    Election Tracker

    Saturday, December 10, 2005

    America Weighs In

    No country wants to be seen as influencing another country's election, at least not publicly. Sometimes, however, it can't be helped.

    What's new Bill?

    Bill Clinton was in Montreal to give a speech on the environment on Friday. Paul Martin, never one to miss a good photo op, modified his travel plans so that he could meet with him. Perhaps he viewed this as part of his responsibility as Prime Minister? Nothing to do with the election. After all, it's important to keep good relations with our neighbor and closest ally.

    Why then would you give a speech on Wednesday where you attack the US for not signing on to the Kyoto Accord and accusing America of having no global conscience. Election or no election, you know the Americans aren't going to sit around and take that. They dragged our ambassador in for a quick tongue lashing and the press jumped all over the incident. Was Martin worried? Depends how it plays out in the heartland. Standing up to America can get you some votes.

    Who's in charge?

    Even though Parliament was dissolved the Liberals still answer for what happens in the country. Sometimes that helps the incumbents and sometimes it doesn't. The Liberals have a number of time bombs that could go off when they least expect it. The obvious one is Gomery but there are others. Canadian hostages in Iraq. Hopefully they get released.

    What about US planes carrying prisoners to unnamed destinations? Rumor has it that they may be refueling on Canadian territory. Wouldn't the opposition parties have a field day with that.

    There's also the whole income trust leakage issue. It certainly appears that someone knew about the government's positive announcement on dividend tax policy hours before it was made official. People made a lot of money with that little titbit of information. So far, nobody has been able to connect the dots right to the finance minister but no doubt there are a lot of people trying.

    What else is lurking out there? That's the problem with long campaigns. It gives people time to find the skeletons.

    Election Tracker

    Friday, December 09, 2005

    Scandal? What Scandal?

    Remember when the only thing people talked about was the Gomery report? Corruption, kickbacks and fraud. What more could we ask for? The opposition parties couldn't wait to bring down the government.

    It turns out, at least for the moment, that voters aren't that concerned. They want to move on to more "substantial" issues like healthcare. Almost 30% of voters think healthcare is THE issue yet none of the parties have really addressed it in a comprehensive way.

    As for corruption, talk about a velvet glove treatment. None of the parties want to be the first to go negative, at least in a heavy, obvious way. So far it's all light jabs and gentle sparring. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security, Paul. It's coming.

    Little Progress

    After two weeks of campaigning, the opposition parties must be starting to question themselves. They've released promise after promise to no effect. The Liberals are even getting a slight bump up in the polls. It's a long campaign and most people won't be taking this seriously until the New Year. But still. You gotta wonder what's it going to take to unseat these guys.

    Children Are Our Future

    Some issues are clearly being addressed. Take daycare for example. Harper announced a plan that would pay families $1200 a year for every child under the age of six. No strings attached. Martin responded by promising to allocate money for daycare. Actually, he would double the amount he promised last time. Was the money from the first promise ever delivered? Is ten billion dollars that never gets delivered twice as good as five billion dollars that never gets delivered?

    In any case, the distinction between the two proposals couldn't be clearer. Martin wants money transferred to governments to build infrastructure while Harper wants families to have the money directly and allocate it as they see fit.

    Although both strategies have merit, consider this. Only 13% of children attend institutional daycare. 40% stay with family members, friends, etc. while fully 47% of children stay at home with one of the parents. What do they get? Nothing. Many critics said that $1200 dollars per year wouldn't go very far. If you're a stay at home mom struggling to make ends meet so that your child can get the best care possible maybe you have a different perspective. In the voting booth it's all about me, baby!

    I Want To Be In Politics

    Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you. Marc Garneau got a quick introduction to the ruthlessness of high stakes Federal politics this week. In 1986 (that's almost twenty years ago) Garneau made a speech in which he spoke about the need to allocate limited educational funds to the people that have the best chance of succeeding. The Bloc jumped all over this comment accusing him of being against assistance for special needs and handicapped students.

    A month is an eternity in politics. Twenty years? Not so much. Remember, if you plan to run in an election, even if it's twenty years from now, do what the pros do. Be vocal, speak often, say nothing.

    Election Tracker

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Must See TV

    Are you fed up with Christmas specials yet? Perhaps you're concerned that your favorite television shows are going into reruns as they break for the holidays. No need to fret. Our politicians will be providing us with some pre-holiday entertainment.

    In fact, not only will they entertain us for four hours before Christmas, they're so confident that we'll want more, they'll reprise their performances for another four hours after Christmas.

    We're talking about the ever popular leadership debates.

    This time around there will be four debates in total, two in French and two in English. Get out your agendas and pencil in these dates:
    1. December 15th French Debate in Vancouver
    2. December 16th English Debate in Vancouver
    3. January 9th English Debate in Quebec
    4. January 10th French Debate in Quebec

    Let's all take a break from holiday preparations and watch what promises to be a cautious and carefully scripted presentation of previously announced policies and well established differences of opinion.

    This time the moderators will present questions asked by you the voter without a live audience. It's hoped that this will give the candidates more room to outline their ideas and not be shouted down by a vocal audience. If these things get any more scripted we may as well just send them some emails and have their responses posted publicly.

    If you're a sports nuts, watch the leaders bob and weave around the questions like NFL running backs. For the fiction enthusiasts, pay attention to all the promises being made. And, for a little drama, let's see if the Green Party succeeds in getting a spot in the debates. After all, they did get 4.3% of the vote last time around.

    If you do happen to miss the debates, rest assured. We'll bring you the highlights right here as they happen.

    Election Tracker

    Sunday, December 04, 2005

    Tortoise And Hares

    Pacing is everything.

    The first week was dominated by the Tories. They reiterated their position on same sex marriage, they proposed a reduction in the GST, and brought out a policy for reduced wait times in the health-care system. Not finished yet, Harper proposed mandatory sentences for drug trafficking and laws to control federal corruption. Can they keep up the pace?

    As for the Liberals, well, they have an astronaut running and they're against everything Harper said. It's a long campaign. Given the mood of the country for change as well as the albatross of Gomery around their necks, perhaps keeping their head down for the first half of the race will turn out to be a winning strategy.

    First stop Oshawa

    The NDP started the week with the same tried and true approach. What's a federal election without a visit to Canada's automotive heartland, Oshawa. A promise for action for an old industry that's in deep trouble. Instead of continueing to support overpaid, heavily unionized laborers maybe they should propose funding for car designers and rely on the trickle down effect. The US auto industry will never get out of the tailspin they're in if they don't offer the public a product they can get behind. Doesn't anyone in the NDP own a Japanese car?

    Layton also wants to slap retaliatory duties on oil exports to get back at America's softwood lumber tariff policy. It's not hard enough that we sleep next to the elephant, now Layton wants to poke it with a stick.

    Is this for real?

    Gilles Duceppe wants you to know that an independent Quebec will take better care of the environment than Ottawa has been able to do. That promise may actually be one he can keep. If Quebec separates, so much industry will flee the country there won't be anyone left to pollute the environment. Now if only the rivers and air currents would play ball and conform to Quebec laws.

    One other thing. "A vote for the Bloc isn't a vote for sovereignty" says Gilles Duceppe. "Yes it is!" says Paul. "No it isn't!" insists Gilles. And so it goes.

    As for the Green Party, well they're miffed because they won't be included in the debates.

    Seven more weeks of this.

    Election Tracker

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    If I'm Elected

    Just three days into the election campaign and promises and platform ideas are flying at voters fast and furious. On Tuesday all parties shot out of the gate ready to campaign.

    Some noteworthy highlights:

    Stephen Harper assures us that he loves Canada although he's having problems expressing himself. Paul Martin seizes the moment, and shouts "I Love Canada".

    Is a country male or female? Perhaps that question causes Harper to be guarded. After all, once he's elected he promises a free vote on same sex marriage. Maybe he'd get more mileage by campaigning against no sex marriages.

    What's the first platform item the Bloc trots out for voter consideration? Quebec athletes should play for Team Quebec and not Team Canada on the international stage. Reminds me of the highway sign just before you reach Quebec city; "Welcome to the Nation's Capital".

    By the way, whatever happened to the Rhino party? I miss seeing them actually building their party platform.

    Space cadet to run for Liberals. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Marc Garneau will try to follow in the footsteps of Ken Dryden, leverage his name recognition, and slide right into a House of Commons seat.

    Finally, if elected, Stephen Harper would cut the GST by one percent immediately and another one percent within five years.

    More political goodies to come. It's the holiday season after all.

    As a voter what holiday gift do you wish for? Let us know.

    Election Tracker